Sunday, May 15, 2011

And It All Comes Together ~ Part 1

Life is chaotic. Our ‘routine’ is chaotic. There isn’t enough of me to get it all done. And yet…

I’m having a complete, THIS IS IT moment when it comes to homeschooling. Our subjects, resources, materials, and lessons are synchronizing in the most awesome sort of way.

I shared our 2010-2011 homeschooling plans a few weeks ago, but I’d like to share more (okay, a lot of) details and review a few of my curriculum choices. Sorry about my tendency to go on and on! I’ve divided this into at least two posts so that it isn’t overwhelming.

First of all, Classical Conversations: I could not have guessed how perfect CC would be for us this year. Yes, it was a challenge getting us all there with smiles on Monday mornings (especially being 9 months pregnant, and then having a baby during week 3, and crazy illnesses during the first two months). Yes, my boys had to adjust to being in a class (which may have been more stressful each week for me than it was for them).

BUT, it was positively an anchor for us this year. The boys loved class and were always enthusiastic. Having all three boys learning the same material made review during our week a very unifying experience for them. The boys were very possessive of their individual teachers and classmates, which gave them a bit of autonomy. The relationships we all made are priceless.

The memory work took on a life of its own as it initiated discussions, ‘aha’ moments, and deeper learning. It has also woven its way (sometimes quite unexpectedly) through our lessons and life. Looking at the pages of facts and ideas that we have committed to memory and now have as ‘pegs’ on which to hang further information and ideas, I am astounded. I have experience over and over with the boys that it truly works. When they can relate something they have already learned or memorized, more information sticks easily, and the boys show greater interest. It has also given us all a beautiful sense of achievement.

Secondly, Teaching Textbooks: Math used to be my greatest struggle. I LOVED RightStart Math. I think it gives children an incredible foundation in math. But it is also very time- and teacher-intensive, with lots of little parts and pieces. If it isn’t getting done, it isn’t the right thing. We started working through Singapore workbooks, and then I realized that Teaching Textbooks was available starting with 3rd grade! This has revolutionized and renewed our math studies.

The program is extremely child-friendly. Each lesson has an audio-visual and interactive lecture (which can be viewed as many times as needed), then the child completes a series of problems (both new concepts and review) one at a time. The child may make two attempts at each problem with instant feed-back. Often, the child can click on their little ‘buddy’ for a hint. After answering the problem, the child may click to see the worked solution. (There are sample lessons at the above link.)

There are chapter quizzes and bonus rounds (speed drills) in the form of a ‘game show.’ The program features an online grade book that is accessible to the child. The parent also has access to the grade book. Parents can see exactly how many problems were completed, how many were correct, how many attempts were made, and the percentage score for each lesson. Any scores can be edited or deleted, so that the child may repeat a problem or a lesson if needed. (Parents have a separate password, so a child can only view their scores.)

Math 3 starts out very basic (my boys did more than one lesson a day in the beginning) but increases in difficulty rather quickly. It has been said that the program is not considered a rigorous math program, and that it is lacking in conceptual math. I say, if it gets done daily, if it covers all of the math concepts and skills with constant review, if students respond well to the program, if math is no longer a struggle, if the students are finally understanding math and progressing steadily, then it is a huge success. And it is for us.

Both Luke and Levi started with Math 3 in March. Levi has struggled with math in the past, but he should have no problem completing Math 3 by September and moving on to Math 4. Math comes more easily for Luke, and he, too, has done really well with Math 3. He may plateau at some point, but I suspect he will work at least a grade ahead with TT. I think that is the key for any program. Ignore pre-conceived levels. Make sure your child is working at a level (and pace) at which he or she can comprehend the material, progress, and be challenged.

Because the boys can do their math lessons in a reasonable time frame with complete independence, it is now on the every. day. list (even on the weekends and during summer) along with brushing their teeth, emptying the dishwasher, reading, and piano practice. It’s just a fact of life. This means that the boys will complete more than one level of math in a year. Instead of moving on to the next level in TT, which they may not be ready for academically, we are supplementing with Singapore Math workbooks for a more conceptual, rigorous approach as well as Mathematical Reasoning workbooks from Critical Thinking and Life of Fred after completing TT4.

(The boys have also memorized skip counting up to the 15s, squares, cubes, measurements, formulas, and laws with Classical Conversations. This information repeats every year, so once they have it completely memorized, I may add my own list of math memory work.)

Stay tuned for more….


Rachel P. said...

I'm so glad you share this information. I know you feel like you blather on a bit, but for someone like me who is still struggling to get homeschooling all together it is really helpful. Thanks, Heidi.

Anonymous said...

hi heidi....thanks for your input on TT and putting my mind at ease with your good advice. i figured if my boys did a lesson a day they would be a little ahead, but i was afraid of getting too far ahead. i love the extras from the critical thinking company and am currently using some of their books/dvds. good idea to just keep supplementing TT if needed along with the memory work to keep them at a good pace.


MomStarr said...

Hey Heidi, We also use Singapore but just started this past year. I bought the textbook and the workbook. Do you just do the workbooks? We also do Making Math Meaningful together with Singapore. My kids were moaning over doing both workbooks and the textbook. What are your thoughts. You may be tired of sharing thoughts though!! :) Thanks so much for sharing what you are doing and what works! MomStarr

Gina said...

I love it so much when you share what works for's so helpful to this mom who hasn't been at this whole home school thing for long. I often feel clueless, but then I read your posts and have some ideas for where to start. Thank you! (and we love right start math too!)

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you had a great year inspite of all the ups and downs. Grandpa asked me to write and congratulate you for a job well done. Sounds to us like you are not alone in your struggle. You actually are doing a great job!! and a big help to so many. Love from both of us. Grandma and Grandpa

Tsh @ Simple Mom said...

Oh, I so wish TT was available pre-grade 3. When I first learned about them, I was so excited. Until I learned it starts at grade 3. Darn. Because it sounds perfect for me, math-reticent that I am.

In two more school years, I suppose...

Hannah said...

Heidi, have you all tried out the math videos at My seven year ok'd has been burning through them. It sounds like TT is working great for you, and we may give it a try, but if you ever want something supplemental, you might take a look.