# Math Games Anywhere

My kids love doing math. It is the one subject that I rarely ever have to remind them to do. Maybe they were wired with an affinity for numbers. Maybe it is a learned passion. Maybe it is a bit of both.

I do not know exactly what is stems from, but I do know that we often do math differently than I was taught in school. For us, math can be a grab-n-go fun-filled activity. Gone are the days of black and white timed math drills. We have a tote with several math manipulatives to make learning math facts a fun activity.

Some of the kids’ favorites are:

Dice. We have standard 6-sided dice as well as 12-sided and 20-sided dice. You can find these at most educational stores but I have found the best prices at game stores. Simply roll 2, 3, 4 or more dice and add, subtract, multiply or divide as quick as you possibly can. Sometimes each child will roll a die (generating three numbers) and each child will quickly provide the answer to their individual equation… i.e. Bookworm Beauty will multiply all three, Sweetness will multiply two of them and add the third, and The Boy will add all three of them. To take this even further, you can purchase a die with a different operation on each side.

Dominoes. We love dominoes. When we use them for math games we use them much the same way as we use the dice, except instead of picking multiple dominoes they typically choose a single domino out of a bag and perform their operation with the two numbers on it. There are sets available in Double 6, 9, 12, 15, and 18. Some have numbers printed on them, others have color-coded dot patterns. We have a set of Double-Twelve dominoes. This allows the kids to learn their math facts through 12. Our set has dots instead of numbers, which I really appreciate, as it allows the kids to practice quick pattern recognition.

Playing cards. When using playing cards, the kids pick up 2 cards and perform their operation with them. They can choose cards from a pile, a bag, deal them out, lay them out as you would to play a memory game (and keep the pairs that are answered correctly), or any other way that you can imagine.

There are unlimited ways to practice math facts.  Having a set of dice or cards in the car can make restaurant trips fun and waiting times seem shorter. If you have the car blues, turn license plates into math games. Virtually anything that contains numbers can be transformed into mathematical fun.

I have noticed that my children have gained speed in recalling their math facts and performing mental math on longer equations. It sure beats the old flash cards… although we have those too!

What fun ways do your children practice math facts?

# At the Movies – Parental Guidance

I’m not sure how many times I have watched this movie, or at least listened to it, over this last year as Bookworm Beauty loves it.

A lighthearted approach is taken in this movie to enlighten the viewer to a much greater problem in our society today… over-parenting parents. The parents are consumed with their children. The feelings of their children are elevated to an insurmountable position in their lives and they ultimately exhaust themselves attempting to avoid the bruising of their little psyches. Parents do not provide needed correction, do not keep score during organized sports and let the children rule the roost with their outbursts.

It is just a movie… I get it… but yet I see this everywhere I go.

Parents negotiating with children at the grocery store is a constant occurrence, why can’t no just mean no? Parents often seem to be asking their kids to do something instead of telling them to. Don’t get me wrong, giving polite directives shows respect and politeness but our words say a lot about what isn’t said. When a parent asks a child, “will you please take out the trash?” or “would you please pick up your toys?” These are questions. What if the child responds with a “no,” – which is an appropriate response to a yes or no question?

I also cringe when I hear parent’s finish their directives with an inquiring, “OK?” It often sounds like this… “we are not buying toys today, OK?” Do we really want to send the message to our children that we want or need them to agree with what we are saying or doing? What if they respond with, “no, that’s not OK”? These messages are simply confusing.

Personally, one of my biggest struggles is with saying, “I’m sorry.” It’s not a problem when I have actually done something to hurt or offend someone and need to apologize; it’s a problem when I say it as a preface to a statement I am making to my kids. “I’m sorry that you can’t watch a movie right now, you have not finished cleaning your room.” It sounds like I am still maintaining the boundary set forth about their room being clean before watching a movie, but why am I apologizing for having a boundary? Apologizing for a boundary minimizes its authority.

I started to really pay attention to these subtleties when I had teenagers in the house. I would hear myself say that I was sorry that they could not do something because something else was not completed. Then I started thinking about the fact that I am not sorry about that… it was the expectation put forth beforehand that she had chosen to avoid. I began saying – often – “I will not apologize for being your mom and having expectations.”

It was not an easy feat to change my vocabulary but the results were worth it. I removed the wishy-washy terms that in subtle ways undermined my authority. I wish I could say that everything was smooth sailing after doing so, but it wasn’t. It did, however, eliminate a lot of little conversation derailers that my teens were so good at. I was no longer in the defense position of these conversations because I was no longer opening everything up to discussion. I wasn’t militant either – it’s not in my nature – I just simply stopped offering explanations, I stopped apologizing and I stopped asking for their approval for my decisions.

I’m sure we could talk all day about the parents and kids in the grocery store, but what about you? Do you struggle with any wishy-washy terms with your kids?

# Pearly Whites: A Long-Term Focus

I am a busy mom of six children. Three are grown and gone and three are 10 or under. One of the biggest struggles I have had all of these years is enforcing the routine habits of oral hygiene. Don’t get me wrong, I have made them do it… twice a day. Unfortunately, looking back, I realize that it is one of those things that I took care of myself for a couple of years and then when they appeared capable, I passed the torch – or toothbrush – did a quick explanation and from then on out I simply gave out reminders as needed. This has hardly been a proactive approach of the care of teeth that will stay with them for 40, 50, 60 – or more years.

I see my wrong doing. I see the evidence of it every day. I see the sometimes clean teeth and the other times not-so-clean teeth.

Recently, while taking care of my own teeth, I got to thinking about the age of the teeth that grace my smile. Reflecting on my youth, I was unable to recall anyone taking the time to actually teach me how to properly care for them… I had to learn on my own through the years, sometimes as a result of cavities and root canals.

It was time to do something about this. Things needed to change in our house. The adult teeth in our children’s mouths still have a long journey ahead of them. Teaching, on purpose, proper oral care to an audience that was capable of learning proper habits was long overdue. After making an announcement, all three little people joined me in the bathroom and lined up in front of the mirror. I went over a fun and lighthearted overview of proper oral care with a solid focus on brushing techniques:

1. Inspect your toothbrush for cleanliness – you never know what may have been around in the last 12 hours.

2. Enough is enough – too much toothpaste is too much (and used for advertising photos) and too little is too little, you just need a pea-sized portion.
3. Brush for a FULL TWO MINUTES and maybe even a bit longer – I’m thankful for our Sonicare toothbrushes with built-in two-minute timers.

5. On to flossing – this is probably the most important habit to develop that I want my children to develop.
6. Mouthwash/Rinse – we don’t purchase commercial mouthwash as we aim to be a fluoride-free house – however, we do use 2.5 pH acidic water. Don’t worry folks… it’s just water that has been taken through an electrolysis process to generate it’s highly effective sanitizing properties.
7. For the final step we had a talk about cleaning out the sink – to leave it clean for the next person to visit the bathroom -this could very well have been one of the most important conversations of the evening!

I wish I had done this sooner! It has been so easy to overlook, yet such a valuable discussion with long-term benefits or effects. We can’t undo cavities. It’s also much harder to change habits after habits have been developed. I recognize that the habits that they have developed have been appropriate for a three year old, but not for a 5, 7 or 10 year old!

It’s only been a week since the infamous visit to the bathroom mirror. I have to say that I have noticed cleaner teeth over these last several days, as well as a cleaner sink. Interestingly though, my greatest satisfaction has come from their daily use of floss. I not sure know why, but it brings me great joy to know that they know HOW to use them and that they ACTUALLY do.

I sat in on their brushing routine last night to casually monitor. All three of them progressed through the steps without hesitance… I don’t think they were doing it just for my benefit. It left me feeling a bit proud. I am hoping that they will be able to enjoy those beautiful pearly whites for decades to come!

As parents, we all have something that we want to be certain to teach our children… what have you taken the time to focus on with yours?

# New Year’s Beginnings

I love the New Year. I enjoy having a defined period of time to wrap the previous year’s memories into coupled with the hope of the upcoming 12 months to fill.

2015 was good to us. We made our move out of big city-life and into the country. We have began to grow a farm with hens, goats and now a rooster. I actually have a warm relaxed feeling of “ahhh-I have a farm” whenever I hear the rooster crow. We have found a wonderful church family here on the prairie. Our grown children seem to have adjusted well to adult living. We are simply blessed.

The upcoming year is still full of surprises awaiting our discovery. We have no idea of what this year will bring. There are no babies on the way. There are no weddings to plan. There are no vacations on the horizon. Each day is it’s own gift.

# A Review of SchoolhouseTeachers.com

I have been keeping a secret over this holiday season… I finally get to share it! I feel as though I have found an amazing specialized homeschooling resource library. I seriously find myself discovering more and more resources in this place; some we’ve utilized, some we’ve earmarked for later and more still awaiting our discovery. It has truly been like walking into a library of incredible books to devour!

I’ve recently been honored to partner with The Old Schoolhouse to review homeschooling products throughout 2016. Although I am drooling over the list of awesome products that we get to utilize in our home classroom, I am still in awe over the Yearly Membership at SchoolhouseTeachers.com!

I have to admit; at first I was a bit intimidated. There are simply so many resources available on SchoolhouseTeachers.com. I was able to rule out the perusal of the middle and high school resources because our students are 5th, 1st and Kindergarten, with the exception of upper grade Spanish resources.

So what did we find..?

To start with, keep in mind that I was in the middle of holiday festivities when our membership began. To top that off, we had planned on taking the entire month of December and the first week of January off. I had already hung my teacher’s hat, swapping it for the Santa cap and reindeer antlers. Consequently, I didn’t take the time, initially, to peruse the site myself. However, I let Bookworm Beauty (5th grade) take over. Her ability to navigate the site and find multiple topics of interest to study was a great indicator of the overall user-friendliness and content-richness of the site.

Bookworm Beauty spent so much time reviewing the resources on SchoolhouseTeachers.com that I began to suspect she may have been surfing the internet and playing games instead. However, every time I checked on her, she was plugging away. She spent most of her time working on Keyboarding in Computer and Technology, Elementary French in Foreign Languages, and Reader’s Theater in Drama and Speech.

Bookworm Beauty may be only 10 years old and in 5th grade, but she has spent 2 years in a Spanish Language Immersion program. She was excited to see that Foreign Languages were available but quickly felt let down to see that the programs didn’t offer anything beyond the elementary level. However, It didn’t take her long to bounce back as she reminded me that she really wanted to be tri-lingual and now had an opportunity to learn French – which she proceeded to dive into! There is currently 3 full years of French available for download, taught by Monsieur Greg Shone. She has been able to navigate the program herself and is currently on lesson 7 of year one. She hasn’t done much, but her enthusiasm has not waned – I call that success!

Keyboarding was Bookworm Beauty’s least favorite experience on the Yearly Membership. She felt that the lessons were just way to slow. In the end she determined that it may be well suited for younger students with little to no keyboarding experience.

The highlight of Bookworm Beauty’s experience was Drama and Speech. I have a feeling that the Reader’s Theater will be an ongoing part of our school from here on out. She had a great time showing off her director skills as she worked with Sweetness and The Boy to perform a few of the titles available.

Sweetness and The Boy thoroughly enjoyed Awesome Stuff in the Bible! They loved the fun animated bible videos. The stories reviewed were not new stories to them, yet they held their interest. The Boy said they were “Awesome!” and Sweetness especially loved the songs that accompanied the videos. She continues to sing them well after viewing them.

I did take the time to peruse the site on my own. For me, my biggest question was whether or not this was a site that I find enough value in to pay for the membership in the future. After talking with Bookworm Beauty I felt that there were a few areas that could be improved upon, with more advanced Keyboarding instruction and advanced Foreign Languages. However, at this time, that is all that I find lacking.

I have earmarked several resources for future studies throughout this year. The Lapbooking resources are incredible, as is the Everyday Easels Unit Studies in Art. I was also floored with the over 10,000 titles of streaming video resources in the Media Library that accompanies the Yearly Membership!

I’m sure that there are many great resources available for homeschoolers everywhere. If you are looking for one that has everything in one place, this may be it! Previously, I have spent hours searching for supplemental resources to go with whatever we were studying… not any longer!