Learning to love math

Recently I wrote about how we have been struggling with Kyri’s attitude. Often when we would start working on our math work for the day, she would immediately get huffy, turn around in her chair and just completely shut down. I know she is a bright girl, and so it would pain me to hear her say she hated math, because I know she GETS it, her frustration just gets in the way. I have been working to really listen to her, to try and figure out what she needs, rather than just respond to the behavior.

Some days this is easier said than done, but overall we have made significant process. To get her out of this rough patch, I have had to make some changes in our homeschool routine. First, I had to back off a bit and relax myself. She’s five, and since she has a late birthday, she technically wouldn’t even be starting kindergarten until Fall 2012. We are also schooling year round, so its not like I need to meet some June deadline to have a set amount of work done. Geting stressed out about school (both of us) is counterproductive – if she hates school, what have I accomplished?

Second, I changed our approach completely, at least for a short while. Kyri did not want to do her math worksheets – covering counting, estimating, addition and subtraction, and place value. So we stopped doing worksheets. We sat on the floor and used small river rocks from the craft store. I would place a handful in front of her and ask her to set up rows of ten, and then a small row of whatever was leftover. How many groups of ten? How many leftover?  She loved it. She started grabbing her own handfuls and counting them out. Next we made a long number line the middle of the living room floor using blue painters tape. I pulled out our addition and subtraction flashcards and she would have to step up and down the number line to solve the math problem. She was having such a good time doing this – she was jumping around solving math problems and giggling, and insisted that I “take a turn” so that she was calling out problems while I jumped around the number line. This really helped shake her out of her math funk, and we have been able to do our math workbooks again. I can say to her, “visualize being on the number line, where are you starting and how many steps forward are you taking?” Finally, by listening to her, I learned that she didn’t always like to write – who knows, maybe she’s not feeling it one day because she is tired, or just because. Obviously I want her to write her work down to improve her handwriting, but to me, its more important that she is DOING the math, so if she starts to balk at doing her work, I offer to let her narrate to me. I start off by asking if she wants to narrate half the page, and write the other half. Some days she agrees, other days, she wants to narrrate the whole thing. But she is doing the math in her head, which is what is important to me.

Another thing that I learned when I started really listening to her is that she has been anxious to start time and money – my plan has been to finish working through place value before moving on to time and money, but for some reason she is really excited to start the next topic. So we started working ahead. We try to do addition/subtraction each day and then take turns covering place value, time or money. We have come a long way in the past month – we rarely go through the scene I described anymore, which makes me VERY happy. I thought it was fitting that this week’s writing prompt at The Homeschool Classroom was to discuss our best recent homeschool moment. Given all we have been through in the past couple of months, one of my best recent homeschool moments has been Kyri finishing her math work, and then eagerly working ahead because she is enjoying herself. And for fun, she likes to make up little sheets of math problems for me to do. Getting our kids to WANT to learn and to enjoy themselves while doing it – this is why we homeschool, right?

Starfall – Our favorite homeschool resource

I have written a review in the past about Starfall, but I wanted to revisit this resource in response to The Homeschool Classroom’s writing prompt for this week. We love Starfall around here. In our homeschool, I consider reading, language arts and math as our foundation for the school day. Some days we need a bare bones day out of necessity – whether it is errands that need to be run, pressing household needs, or unexpected visitors. If I have to rearrange our school plans for the day, I make an effort to get our foundation work done, and then I can shuffle whatever else I had on the schedule over the rest of the week. I cover our foundation work briefly and then I let Kyri get on the computer and do Starfall. This is a great tool to introduce new material and reinforce reading and math skills.

Starfall is a wonderful resource for teaching phonics, early reading, counting, place value, and early math. It is very interactive – flash generated graphics are used for animated stories, CVC word machines, counting, addition/subtraction machines, geometry and measurement. There is a large selection of stories, books, activities, and songs to engage younger children. Starfall is very engaging so I don’t worry about Kyri “vegging” out in front of the computer screen – she is animated, giggling, reading and singing along. She loves to play on Starfall, and to her it doesn’t feel like she is doing schoolwork. But in the year that we have been using Starfall, I have seen such positive results. We first got a full subscription to the online content this past Spring, at the end of her preschool year (as we were transitioning to homeschool). Starfall does have a lot of free content, but I recommend paying the year subscription cost. It is not expensive at all, and allows full access to all of the web content (and there is A LOT!) as well as the teacher resources, such as worksheet generators, many more early reader selections, and the Kindergarten curriculum. I have seen Kyri’s reading skills blossom over the past year, and I really credit Starfall for engaging her in fun activities online to reinforce basic phonics and early reading.

Kyriandra’s Year in Review

Even though we will be schooling year-round, its hard to not feel like the school year is moving toward a finale. Maybe it’s because Spring Break traditionally signals the beginning of the end for me. Having always done a traditional school year, by this time of year, I am mentally preparing for that last push to get through the spring and be done for the summer break. With Spring fever in the air, and with our daughter site up and running to keep up with Kyriandra’s schooling, this seemed as good a time as ever to recap what we have done this year. This review is picture heavy, with some details to the subjects we have covered, to give a good representation of what we have done this year. Remaining topics will be added as individual posts, but this gets us up to date. I love looking at pictures from our homeschool adventures – Kyri has such a great time and it is usually evident in her pictures. Head over to Kyriandra’s Big Day to check them out!