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False God #2, Nerf Gun Reading, Math Speed Drills

By Heather Idoni

Added Monday, September 12, 2011
Vol. 12 No. 37, September 12, 2011, ISSN: 1536-2035
(c) 2011, Heather Idoni - www.FamilyClassroom.net

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Notes from Heather
-- False God #2
Winning Website
-- The Why Files
Helpful Tips
-- Target Shoot Fun
Reader Question
-- Math Speed Drills
Additional Notes
-- Newsletter Archives
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather

Homeschooling False God #2

"Homeschooling false god no. 2: Qualifications. If we're not qualified as parents to train our own children, then God has been giving kids to the wrong people for a long time. Even the schoolists trust us to teach our kids to speak, walk, use the bathroom, ride a bike, organize their possessions, use an encyclopedia and a dictionary, feed themselves, apply personal hygiene, etc. In fact, they want us to teach them all that before we send them to school. So how come we can't be trusted to teach them the alphabet and how to read, after which any person is self-educable? Einstein couldn't have taught science, nor Ronald Reagan government, in our public schools. No certification." -- Rick Boyer

Reader Feedback

"Thanks for your Homeschooler's Notebook. I appreciate the info! I was excited to see the 'Homeschooling False God' section. I thought it was good, but I was hoping to see that someone finally addressed the idea that homeschooling itself is a false god to some of us. As homeschool moms we can live, eat, and breathe homeschooling, and neglect our relationship with God... not just spending time with Him (although that's terrific), but just being with Him and letting Him be a part of all we do. We can put homeschooling above Him." -- Valerie R., homeschooling mom to 3


Your feedback is always welcome! -- mailto:heather@familyclassroom.net


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Winning Website

The Why Files

The science behind the news! Explore the science, math and technology behind the news of the day.


Helpful Tips

Target Shoot... for Reading, Math and More!

"I have a challenging 7 year old who needs lots of activity to keep him interested.

Here's something that his older brother and I have come up with that he loves and it seems to be great for right now. My boys are crazy about Nerf guns and I am crazy about gun safety, so this combines learning with both. We have set up a 'shooting range' in the living room with 6 plastic Gatorade type bottles -- each with a different word taped on it (could be numbers or math facts or whatever -- right now we are hitting sight words hard, so they are our 'targets'). My son is in a sitting or prone shooting position with his safety glasses (no ear protection required for this one!).

His older brother is the 'line instructor' and calls out a word. Younger son then has to pick the right bottle and shoot at it. It's great fun and it reinforces all kinds of things. He has to practice keeping his gun pointed in a safe direction, shooting only at the desired target, keeping his finger off the trigger until he is ready to fire, etc. He also has to actively search and find the right word and listen. Soon, we will have him read and pick the target he will shoot at. He will also get to take turns as the line boss and tell his older brother which one to shoot at."

-- Brenda B., HomeschoolinBOYS.com Yahoo Group member

Last Issue's Reader Question

"My son does well understanding math concepts, but we have one problem. I don't put a lot of stock in standardized tests, but the last test he took illustrates our problem. On the math portion of the test where I read him each problem, he got almost all of them right; however, when we got to the timed portion, he had trouble. He made a lot of careless errors and was unable to complete the test within the time limit.

We will be doing 'third grade' this year. I have tried flash cards and drill sheets over the past two years, but we have both ended up frustrated. We tried flash cards again this summer; we have given him a goal of doing the pack of flash cards in 3 minutes. He is only able to do about 28 to 36 flash cards in the 3 minutes. His best time is 43 cards. He will go through 10 or so well sometimes -- and then he just sits and stares at a card. It could be 6+1 or 5+7 or 8+9 -- it doesn't appear to be specific facts that he gets stuck on.

I have given him all kinds of strategies when he doesn't know the answer Ė- use the doubles, rule of 9s, simply counting up. He just seems to blank out and stare at a card and then get frustrated. Has anyone had success with overcoming a situation like this? He can sing all of his multiplication tables, so I'm somewhat confused by this addition 'mental block'. Thanks." -- Cindy B.

Our Readers' Responses

"Cindy -- It sounds as if your son does fine with math, but simply doesn't process information the same way as a child who can spit facts out, almost mindlessly, in a speed drill. Being 'good' at math does not necessarily mean that a child has to be able to withstand that type of pressure at the age of 6, 7, or 8. You noted that he doesn't get stuck on a particular problem, but after about ten problems. If he were mine, I would only do ten problems each day, and rotate them so he practices all of his facts in a week. After a few weeks, add another and do eleven. Then do twelve. After a while, with a gradual increase in what you ask of him, his skill may gradually increase to match. In other words, go back to focusing on the math, and worry less about the time for now.

About standardized tests -- your question didn't let us know where you live, but you may have options for different types of tests. The test we have used for the past few years is the PASS from Hewitt. It is untimed in all its parts, and so my boy, who does not like to do one whole test section at once, can take a break -- or have as much time as he needs. I believe the CAT test is not as strictly timed in its early grades, and the Stanford is untimed for elementary school tests as well.

Perhaps you have to take a certain, state-approved test. If that is the case, remember that not all children do well on all parts of every test. Unless it will bring into question your ability and permission to homeschool from the powers that be, it is okay to have a child who scores in a lower percentage in a part of a test if that child is doing their best. If your child doesn't like that part, you could explain that everyone has different gifts and skills, and point out all the things he does well -- then encourage him (gently) to practice those skills, as you are doing now." -- Anne M.


"Hi, Cindy -- Your son has mastered all those facts in an auditory fashion. Just like memorizing a poem, he can finish the line I'm sure. Praise him for knowing those songs! Be patient as he expands on that. You have an auditory learner -- that is awesome!

Capitalize on it. Read the facts to him for a while instead of just showing him the card. Have him read the facts, first out loud and then silently reciting them. If needed, find addition songs. Eventually, the visual will get attached to what he already knows. He will be using a different part of his brain to SEE a math problem and complete the math fact. It helps to understand this. Think about it. He has to see the symbols, translate them into words or pictures or sounds and 'look up' what they mean in his mind before even tackling how to add them together. That's why it is taking so long. He has to use both sides of his brain to do it. When we've got something memorized, we only use one side of our brain and it becomes practically 'brainless'. Once the facts are memorized they will be valuable tools for later learning. But what about more complicated problems?

Using Arabic numbers is the very hardest way for a child to learn -- We adults forget this. It only comes after children have a solid understanding of what numbers represent. If you want to get him thinking of numbers as things, buy a big set of play money and use pennies for ones, dimes for tens, etc. on a plain sheet of cardstock with simple bold lines separating the units. Put a picture of each coin at the top of its respective column. This is a tremendous tool for teaching adding and subtracting with borrowing and carrying. Start with using only the coins to solve his math problems and gradually, when he's very comfortable, move gently toward using numbers instead. It will be obvious if he's not ready.

We have four sons, all very different learners. I only wish I had understood these issues better when our older sons were just learning. It is not good for you or your son to stress about math. Keep cheering on your son and building success upon success. If something doesn't work, try something else or focus on something else until he's ready." -- Dawn N.


"My son, like yours, did fairly well understanding math, but timed tests were always a disaster. There was something about having to beat a timer that simply threw him into a tizzy. He spent his time worrying about how much time was passing, and couldn't even think.

Fortunately, we live in a state that doesn't require standardized tests, and I don't have much esteem for them, so we never took any. Here's what worked for us:

I decided that timing him was doing way more harm than good, wasting valuable learning time, and serving absolutely no purpose. We focused on basic skills, and used practical applications, rather than paper-pencil problems, whenever we could. He had many opportunities to use math skills when he built things; planted a garden; cooked; used money (the best math curriculum!), calendar, clock, thermometer, measuring utensils, etc. He is now 17 and is getting along fine in math. I pity the poor person who would try to cheat him in a business transaction. His checkbook is perfectly balanced (better than mine) every month, and he manages his money wisely through saving, investments, and careful spending.

He also studies music extensively, which I believe can enhance math achievement." -- Mary Beth


"Hi, Cindy -- I used to teach in the public school system and had children of multiple ages in my classroom with math and language arts difficulties at the elementary age. I have been homeschooling my own son for a few years now and it sounds to me like he memorized the facts and answers but not the process and reason of how to get the answers or why it is a certain answer. I wouldnít forge ahead in math, but would actually go backwards with it and start with basics.

My son is in first grade this year and one of the things Iíve made him do is keep a math journal with a problem or review skill each day. He has to not just do it, but to tell me HOW he got the answer he got and explain his method of solution to me so I can tell if he really got it or not in concept. Sometimes kids that are really good with memorizing certain things will do just that -- memorize it -- but they wonít have a clue about the process that got them there in the first place.

You may try using a number line going just to 20 for the time being. Have him do drills with patterning, counting by 1, 2, 5 and 10 to 100. Make him identify numbers before/after using counting by 1 and by the other skip counting commonalities. When he has those concepts down solid, THEN go back to addition facts and have him physically do the math with manipulatives of some sort (milk caps, empty spool threads, blocks, etc.) and then use the number line to show where he started and where he went up to for the problems. If necessary, make him write it out in a journal and explain the process in steps writing it out. Do lots of drills and fact work with him. It is always a hard thing to back up a child in the beginning, but in the end it will be best. If the basics are lacking now with something as elementary as addition/subtraction skills, it will only get more difficult in the long run as things are going to depend on knowing the facts and process solid to complete story problems and such. You may also try not reading problems to him. Make him read them to you and explain the steps he would need to take to solve it as he does it.

Is his reading ability at grade level or does he struggle in parts with this as well? Sometimes kids that really struggle in one area of skills with school will struggle in another and you may not realize it. If it is just math and timed parts of things he may have testing anxiety and need some skills to cope with it and how to deal with time limits. Unfortunately when he gets in the world outside of homeschooling he will encounter standard tests with time limits if he plans to someday go to a college or university. They wonít go away. Maybe try fact sheets and time him starting with 10 minutes -- and when he is confident with that then drop it to 8 minutes, then 5, etc., until you're down to a reasonable length such as 3 minutes to do the drill. Drop the time gradually as he gains confidence and keep a chart of his times and how many he gets correct in that time. Donít focus on what he doesn't finish or for a grade. This is more about building confidence with the facts and getting comfortable with timed things. Encourage him to see if he can beat his own personal best each time. Eventually that light bulb will light up and there will be no slowing down -- but for now it may be that he needs more time in the basics, rather than in moving to other things that are building from them in the math area. The frustration will only keep building up otherwise -- and that won't be good for him or you.

There is also TXL Math that offers timed drills in many areas/grade levels of math online. You can do them free once a day or you can subscribe for unlimited use. The free drills are great for getting a time and score each time at the end and to get the practice. It may be a good option if you donít like a lot of pencil/paper work." -- Kelly P.

New Reader Question

"If one of my older children is interested in starting her own blog and is fairly comfortable using basic computer/internet skills (but not too technical), where should I start? What pre-made blog set-ups are there? Is that a good way to go? How do we choose which one? Are there financial benefits for her? If so, how does one go about setting up/connecting to do that? What works well or not so well? Thanks in advance!" -- Anna H.


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