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Memory Lane – Third Grade

29 Sep

When I reminisce about my elementary school days, I remember my third grade teacher, Mrs. Sparks.  I enjoy the astonished looks on my girls’ faces whenever I share moments from my youth.  “You were a girl once?!” they ask.  Indeed I was, and I’m not too old to remember some details!  I recall the yellow sheet of paper that Mrs. Sparks handed to each student and proclaimed, “Memorize these facts.”  No fancy rhymes, memory games or promises of treats.  What was on the paper?  Multiplication tables.

Before I withdrew my oldest daughter from public school, her class was beginning to learn the multiplication tables and I heard myself utter, “Just memorize them.”  If I did it that way, why couldn’t she?  When the teacher introduced a motivational game to help the class learn the tables, I rolled my eyes.  I kept hearing Mrs. Sparks’ words ringing in my ears, “Memorize these facts.”  Wasn’t the way I learned the fastest and best way?


Thanks to Steve Demme, creator of Math U See, both my daughter and I are learning (or in my case re-learning) the multiplication tables.  Mr. Demme has a unique approach; he teaches the why and how not just the what.  Sure, many kids can memorize the multiplication facts but most don’t understand the why.  Why does 5 x 10 = 50?  Math U See requires the student to build the equations so she can see for herself why and how it equals 50.

Today’s lesson was an eye-opener for ME.  Mr. Demme reviewed multiplying by 5s and revealed the fabulous number patterns.  Yes, there’s more than one way to solve a multiplication problem and Mr. Demme makes it fun!  Sorry, Mrs. Sparks.  We’ve found a better way to understand multiplication tables than merely by memorization.


Volcano Experiment!

25 Sep

Today, we completed the volcano experiment from the Expedition Earth curriculum by Erica (a.k.a. Confessions of a Homeschooler).  If you’re interested in the supplies list and details for the experiment, I suggest contacting Erica; or better yet purchase her geography curriculum, Expedition Earth!  It costs $15 (all downloadable files) and is chock full of activities for countries around the globe.  Erica also offers an animal supplement, Expedition Earth Animals.

Daddy helped our oldest daughter mix the ingredients for the cone of the volcano.  I loved that the recipe required everyday “pantry” ingredients such as flour, salt, oil and water.  No extra trips to the grocery store!

Admittedly, I bought the wrong-sized plastic soda bottle.  We don’t generally drink soda and I realized too late that a two-liter bottle may be overkill.  Nonetheless, we proceeded with the experiment and colored the water red  for the lava effect!

Here the girls are building the base or cone of the volcano.  We ran out of mixture but it didn’t lessen the excitement.

Adding a key ingredient – baking soda.  Steady hand, Daddy!

The second key ingredient – vinegar!


Adapting Curriculum

10 Sep

I admit, I used to roll my eyes when other homeschooling families declared that their children performed above a certain grade level.  In the back of my mind, I’d think “Is bragging necessary?” and “Sure, every parent believes her child is smart.” 

Yet I am quickly discovering that my middle daughter may be able to skip several lessons.  Her first grade curriculum assumes that she doesn’t print or blend letters well and doesn’t read beginning chapter books.  I had her spelling 3-to-4 letter words and reading books to me last winter through the end of July.

I feel as if we’ve taken a couple of leaps backwards.  The Bible reader is below her reading comprehension level.  It is too easy!  I don’t want my girls to speed through curriculum; I want them to be challenged in their daily assignments.

Thankfully, the public library is a short drive (in fact, on cooler days we can walk)!  I envision at least a weekly visit. 

I’m a bit anxious because the supplemental researching and reading has added to my already steep workload.  My oldest daughter is studying the middle ages and I wanted to use Pandia Press History Odyssey until I realized it was only a study guide.  The list of required books floored me!  I cannot afford to buy an additional half a dozen books plus the study guide!  I reverted to Mystery of History (MOH) Volume II – we studied the initial volume in our first year.  MOH is all-inclusive.  The author may recommend alternate resources or materials, but there’s no requirement to buy additional texts.  So, history remains on the back burner until MOH arrives in the mail.  For now, we’ll casually read and seek online materials to peak our curiosity.

My youngest daughter hasn’t gone unscathed either.  I think she’s bored!  Her boxed curriculum required a full 10 days for the Seven Days of Creation.  Well, we already learned Creation in our MOH Volume I lessons!  Eeek!

If you want to purchase a perfect curriculum, stop looking!  One doesn’t exist.  And if a child excels and loves a certain text, the sibling may hate it!  Repeat this mantra: Be flexible.  Trust yourself to adapt the curriculum.

Oh right, I also ordered a recommended book entitled, What Your Child Needs to Know When: According to the Bible, According to the State: with Evaluation Check Lists for Grades K-8 by Robin Sampson.  Perhaps I’ll be better prepared this time next year?  I can only pray!

[I wish Amazon awarded frequent buyer credits!]

Writing Curriculum

29 Aug

A brief history on me…As a child, I did not read a lot of classic literature.  The bad news?  I obviously missed out on some terrific reading!  The good news?  Since I homeschool, I can live vicariously through my children and read the classics (many for the first time) along with them!

Last winter, I bought my oldest daughter a notebook for journaling.  She didn’t seem very interested and I couldn’t understand why.  Until I read that many kids are not able to write original ideas in the early elementary years.  Then I discovered Susan Wise Bauer’s Writing With Ease curriculum.  Ms. Bauer offers many classic literature selections in the student workbooks.  The short classic excerpts such as Winnie-the-Pooh, The Frog Prince, The Adventures of Pinocchio, Pollyanna and Caddie Woodlawn whet our appetite to read the books. 

I started the Writing With Ease Level One workbook with my then third-grader because I didn’t know what to expect.  Each lesson week had four exercises:

  1. Day One – Copywork of a sentence related to the reading selection.
  2. Day Two – Narration followed by a brief question and answer exercise.
  3. Day Three – Copywork
  4. Day Four – Narration and Copywork

We quickly concluded that my daughter was too old for the Level One workbook, so I ordered her the Level Four.  Some of the reading selections in her level are Little Women, Black Beauty, The War of the Worlds, A Little Princess, The Velveteen Rabbit, and The Swiss Family Robinson.  Ms. Bauer also includes some selections from her history curriculum, The Story of the World.

While the Level Four workbook follows the same four-day lesson week, the daily exercises require the student to identify a focus point in the narration, write original sentences and complete dictation exercises.  The dictation exercises cover the correct usage of grammar.  Flipping to Week 21, I noticed a poetry exercise.  Once again, I’ll be learning as much as my daughter!  We’re both excited to begin Writing With Ease.

PreK “Letter of the Week” Curriculum by Confessions of a Homeschooler

11 Jul

Outstanding and Fun Curriculum for your preschooler.  Please see my personal review on the Curriculum in Review page.

Visit for details on the PreK curriculum.