Monthly Archives: August 2016

Home School

I home school my children.

This is what I tell others.  It’s a lie.

First, the “home” part.  My children and I spend large portions of each week all kinds of places that are not home.  We attend music lessons, play dates, game nights, and all kinds of classes. We go to the grocery store, museums, and parks.  We take road trips out of town and out of state.  We go on weekend quilt retreats that start on Thursday and end on Monday.

Second, the “school” part.  School is defined as “an institution for educating children”.  Is my home an institution for educating children?  Yes, but not in the way most of us think of school.  Most of us think of school as a state or privately funded organization that meets in a school building.  In a school students are segregated by age and placed in rooms specifically designed for teaching and learning.  Instruction is provided by a professional educator using the same curriculum provided for students the same age across the school district.  This is far from what goes on in my home.  Each of my children has had an education designed for his or her needs, wants, and talents.  There are a handful of things all six of them have done and dozens of things only one of them has done.  I’ve set up three or four hoops each child must jump through, but none of them are academic.

So, “home school” is a huge misnomer.  What we do is only sometimes at home, and only occasionally slightly resembles school.

Words can be powerful.  When I use the term “home school” I tend to compare what I do with what happens in school.  I sometimes wonder if my children are doing enough, or if I’m covering everything I should be.  I also compare my children with others who call themselves home schoolers.  Are my children behind?  Are they having the same experiences as others?

I think my goals and intentions can be more accurately called providing individualized direction and training, facilitating learning, and raising adults.  If I think in these terms I focus on these goals.

[For students registered for Algebra 2, please complete lessons A and B and be prepared to turn them in on the first day of class.]

Math Fun

For fun math problems, delivered to your inbox daily, try Bedtime Math.  Subscribe and learn about baby animals, speed-eating, the history of calculators and lots more interesting topics.  Each story comes with math problems at pre-school through pre-algebra levels.

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Basic Facts

Years ago I read about some research that completely changed how I thought about basic math facts.

What are basic math facts?  According to “[a] “basic fact” in math is defined as any mathematical number, fact or idea instantly recalled without resorting to strategies….[The] main basic facts encountered in math are “whole-number” basic facts, in particular multiplication, addition, division and subtraction.”

Let’s focus on “instantly recalled” and the “without resorting to strategies”.

Instantly recalled.  What’s your name?  You can answer that without pause.  That’s instantly recalled.  When children have learned the basic math facts, they can respond to 6 x 7 with 42 without pausing.

Without resorting to strategies.  We teach children to skip count, tag on a zero when multiplying by 10, and use other tricks and tools to find the answer to 9 + 5. or 5 x 7.  These are strategies.

If basic facts are those recalled instantly without resorting to strategies is it a bad thing to teach strategies?  This is where that research comes in.  In a nutshell, the researchers found children did not memorize basic math facts.  When basic math facts are recalled, it’s not because the facts have been memorized.  Children found a path to the fact, a strategy to get to the answer, and traveled that path so many times it appeared to be instant recall without a strategy.

How can this be applied in helping children learn basic math facts?  I believe strategies not only help students learn basic facts, but also increase number sense and help students understand the operations.  And, according the the research, strategies, when practiced over and over, will result in instant recall without appearance of strategy.

(I read the research many years ago.  If I come across it again I’ll edit this to include credit.)

Homework Due 9/27 and 9/28

Saxon math students have their first test this week.  Be sure to check the class info for details about how to take a test.

Math for the Middle Grades – The daily work is Lessons 7-8.  This is a change from the syllabus.  We are slowing down through long multiplication and long division.  All students have had some experience with these skills. A few students are pretty comfortable with these skills. I want to be sure everyone makes great progress in mastering multiplication and division.   We started these in class and students should finish them at home.  Parents, please score your student’s work.  If you are busy and your student can handle it, your student may score his or her own work.

Parents, when I encouraged MMG students to email me if they need help a couple of them asked if it was okay for their parents to help them.  Of course!  It’s great if parents can help.  But if you are busy, or if math gets emotional, or you just want your student to handle it, please have your student email for help.

Students, if you are struggling, stuck, or even a little bit confused, please email me and let me know what page(s) and what problem number(s) I can help you with.  And remember, if what I say and what your parents say is different, your parents are right.

The homework this week is practicing multiplying by 2 and 4.  The key here is doubling. Multiplying by 2 is doubling a number.  For example, 2 x 7 = 14.  Fourteen is 7 doubled.

Multiplying by 4 is double double.  4 x 7 is the same as 7 x 2 x 2.      7 x 2 = 14 and 14 x 2 = 28

Optional:  Multiplying by 8 is double double double.  8 x 7 is the same as 7 x 2 x 2 x2.
7 x 2 = 14   and   14 x 2 = 28    and 28 x 2 = 56

I like the doubling strategy because it’s often fewer steps to the answer than skip counting.  For example, 7 x 8:  Start with 7, double it to 14, double it to 28, double it to 56.  Three steps to the answer.  🙂

Math 76 – In class we covered lessons 8-12.  We completed the practice problems for lessons 8-12.  The homework is the odd numbered problems on lessons 10-12 and Test 1.  Complete the test on paper, just as you do lessons.  The test can be taken in more than one sitting.  Any notes in the notes section of your notebook may be used during testing.  For more details, see the How to Do Lessons handout.

Students, next week turn test 1.  Also turn in the practice for lesson 8, the practice for lesson 9, and the complete lessons 10-12.  If you want extra credit you may complete lessons 8 and 9.

Be sure to read lessons 13-17 in preparation for next week.

Algebra 1/2 – Lessons 11-15 and Test 2.  Complete the test on paper, just as you do lessons.  The test can be taken in more than one sitting.  Any notes in the notes section of your notebook may be used during testing.  For more details, see the How to Do Lessons handout.

Be sure to read lessons 16-20 in preparation for next week.

Algebra 1 – Lessons 11-15 and Test 2.  Complete the test on paper, just as you do lessons.  The test can be taken in more than one sitting.  Any notes in the notes section of your notebook may be used during testing.  For more details, see the How to Do Lessons handout.

Be sure to read lessons 16-20 in preparation for next week.

Algebra 2 – Lessons 11-15 and Test 2.  Complete the test on paper, just as you do lessons.  The test can be taken in more than one sitting.  Any notes in the notes section of your notebook may be used during testing.  For more details, see the How to Do Lessons handout.

Be sure to read lessons 16-20 in preparation for next week.

Geometry – sections 2:3, 3:1, and pages 1-10 of Lifepac 7.  This is a change from the syllabus. Be sure to read the next few sections in preparation for next week.  Bring LifePacs 2, 3, and 7 to class next week.

…with the end in mind

In deciding which of the multitude of activities my child and my family will pursue, I consider whether or not an activity helps fulfill my vision for my child and family or my child’s vision for himself.  I wrote about this is the previous post.

I also consider the investment.  Every opportunity comes with costs.  These costs are time, money, and effort.  Time, money, and effort should be budgeted.  Each of these costs represents an opportunity.  Once time, money, and effort are spent on something, they cannot be spent again.  Again, time, money, and effort should be budgeted.

Once I have identified an activity to pursue I consider the time needed to fully participate in the activity.  Some opportunities happen at a certain time. Classes at WEST are a great example of this.  A class that meets once a week works well for my family’s schedule.  The class is at a particular time each week and time for homework can be on a flexible schedule.

Other activities are even more flexible. Helping a neighbor with yard work needs to happen during certain times of the year, but not necessarily on a particular day, or at a particular time.  Reading a good book is an ongoing activity that doesn’t require specific scheduling.

When considering the financial cost of an activity, not only should the cost of the activity fit in my budget, but I want to compare prices and value for each dollar spent.  Four of my children have taken classes at WEST.  The price per class is competitive.  The value is amazing. Tutors with great passion for Jesus and love for the subjects they teach make WEST classes a great value.  

Finally, I consider the effort necessary to fully benefit from an activity.  Is my child committed to doing his best?  Am I committed to providing accountability for my child?  Is my child mature enough to participate in this activity, or will I have to participate with my child?  Do we have enough mental and emotional energy available to take full advantage of this activity?  When deciding which classes my children would take at WEST I considered all of these things.  Yes, the WEST tutor is teaching the class, but I know my effort toward my child’s success in the class is also necessary.  I need to provide be sure my child attends class, spends time on the homework, and completes the homework to my satisfaction and the standards of the tutor.

Sometimes an amazing opportunity pops up without warning.  When time, money, and effort are budgeted some of each can be reserved so surprise opportunities can become wonderful experiences.

With the many activities available, sometimes deciding which are right for my child is difficult.  If I start by identifying how an activity fulfills my vision for my child, and my child’s vision for himself, many choices are eliminated.  When I next count the costs of time, money, and effort, I have much greater clarity about what to pursue and what to let pass.

Begin . . .

Classes, curriculum, lessons, trips, jobs, mission trips, volunteer opportunities… how can I take advantage of all the wonderful possibilities available for my child and for our family?

The short answer is I can’t. No one has enough time to do everything.

If doing everything is not an option, how will I choose?

There are two things I consider when choosing which activities to pursue: vision and investment.

My next post will be about the investment. I’ll stick to vision for now.


When an opportunity arises I ask myself  “Does this activity help fulfill my vision for my child?” This is a good place to start, but it’s a yes or no question. I need more information to make a good decision.

Then I ask myself “How does this activity help fulfill my vision for my child? How does this activity help fulfill the vision my child has for himself?”

If the activity is vision fulfilling in a way current activities are not, or in a unique way, or it’s something that might not be available again, I am likely to move in the direction of pursuing the opportunity

In the next post I’ll address the investment involved in pursuing an opportunity.

Find it Here

I’m so excited for the start of classes at WEST!  I’m printing syllabuses, planning for classroom games, and exploring new ways to help students succeed at math.

One way to help students succeed is to be sure they know what the homework is each week. Each student will have a syllabus that lists assignments for the semester.  Parents will receive access to their student’s grades on  And information about WEST Math classes will be available here every Thursday.

On Mondays I’ll post a reminder and some thoughts and opinions.

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