Math Steps and Military Troop Safety: What they have in Common

Should I make my boys show all their work in math?
201406061136225302.jpg (570×238)

If you have 11-14 year old boys, you know why I am asking. 
They see no point in doing something, unless that something has a point...

      ...let me tell you a little story...

I once had a brilliant student in my 5th grade class. (Back in the days I taught 5th and 6th grade)
I mean crazy brilliant.
We all knew he would grow up to create Iron Man for real or blow up the moon.

This student refused, I mean refused, to write down the steps in math. But we stayed on him. We kept making him and he kept refusing. We were determined to help him learn the discipline of showing his work.

That was about 10 years ago. This morning I woke up curious, so I decided to ask him.
Here is the core of my message:

Hi there!

I wanted to ask you a homeschooling question, that truthfully, you are the most qualified to answer from personal experience...

letter_wide-114373157624ef432f57452b56c2eb19289fd314-s6-c30.jpg (948×532)When you were in 5th/6th grade we used to "make you" write out all the steps in math. We argued that as you got into higher and higher math (and problem solving in general) that this would be necessary.

...I'm curious from your perspective as a now extremely successful adult... Were we right?
Do you now see the value of writing out the steps logically?

Why the heck am I asking you? I am now teaching my own younger boys (4, 6, and 7th grade) and every time I am "making them" write out the steps I think of you and wonder.
                                                      ~Mrs. Sayler

His response made my day...

"Well, to be fair I am one of the few people in the world that benefited from it.

I went all the way through calculus 3 and ended up becoming a non communication signal intelligence analyst in the Air Force. I use high level electro - magnetic theory on a daily 

concept-II.png (1034×764)
You can let your boys know if they want to break apart the signal of a missile guidance or reverse engineer the jammer blocking out all the GPS systems of our troops on the ground, you are gunna have to show your work because it only gets harder the cooler the stuff is."


There you have it. 
Make 'em show their work, otherwise they will be reverse engineering important things in their heads!!!

I Should Have Quit

Today is definitely one of those days.
I should have quit when:

  • The ceiling started dripping.
  • I realized the water was coming from the upstairs bathroom.
  • When I called the landlord to tell her that the upstairs bathroom was leaking into the downstairs bathroom.
  • When my 7th grader decided I was "wasting his time by trying to get him to write down a few math steps".
  • My 7th grader was shaking in frustration, confusion, and rebellion.
  • The plumber came and asked me where the main water turn off was for our new home.
  • My 6the grader decided that 2 hours was an appropriate time limit for a lesson that was begun with the words, "honey, I am letting you do this easy math lesson today so you can practice three things: neatness, discipline, and timing..."
  • I looked at my 6th grader's paper only to discover he had only neatly written the lesson number after 30 minutes.
  • My 4th grader disappeared from the school area... AGAIN.
  • My 7th grader announces to me, in front of the plumber, "mom, ______ just bit ______" (no names to protect the guilty)
Ok, I really should have quit when:
  • I realized that one of my kids bit another of my kids. (Really? I have No I kids under the age of 9!!!)
  • The guilty child was just "play biting in order to get his toy back..." (I repeat. My kids are older than 9).
  • The plumber asks, "So... You homeschool?"
  • I reply, "Yes sir. Only today is one of those days that I question homeschooling!"
I really, really, really should have quit when:
  • The boys almost hung the dog. Accidentally of course.
So, I quit. Just now.
I sent the boys to bed until tomorrow. (Or until I cool down, which ever comes first)

Do you ever keep going on a day that clearly communicates, "STOP!"
Tell me, I'm not the only one!!

Moving and Homeschooling

In case you have been wondering where I have been...

Our family is relocating to Washington State. My home is in complete chaos. School has been virtually non-existent. It has been crazy!

I have not had time to even think about blogging lately, not to mention the fact that this is happening so quickly that it is a shock to all who know us. Out of love and respect for our family and friends, I wanted to make sure they heard about the move from us first, before reading about it here.

This is the actual week of our move, so I expect to be continuing with my internet silence for another few weeks, or until I can find my materials again.

For now, I am thankful for the flexibility of homeschooling! The boys have been champions at packing and disassembling. They are super excited for their adventure. Washington, Here we come!

Snow Days!!! Learning About Snow During School

My boys and I are learning all about snow!

I set aside our "normal" curriculum and wrote a unit study on snow. The boys are loving the break from the norm and are dreaming about our first snowfall. Hopefully we will be sledding before the new year. In the meantime we are learning about all the different types, colors, and sounds of snow.
From Blood Falls to Surviving an avalanche, we are all amazed!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 
I am purposing to break from blogging until 2015!
May the Lord bless you and your family!!!

Homeschooling Through the Holidays boys will be thrilled that I am reminding you that there are only 12 days until Christmas.

We are busily carrying out our Holiday Traditions and humming wonderful worship songs to celebrate the birth of Christ.

Since Thanksgiving, we have:
    15 Advent and Christmas Math and Reading Activities- 3rd-5
  • Decorated our home inside and out for Christmas (actually, we do that before Thanksgiving)
  • Baked 3 Turkeys
  • Prepared all excess leftovers into freezer meals to both enjoy and bless others
  • Completed our Christmas shopping
  • Baked too many desserts
  • Created advent countdowns
  • Practiced for Christmas Programs
  • Donated a pile of food
  • Began our Advent Study
  • Sat with friends and prayed
  • Learned about Snow and division
  • Picked up our oldest from college
  • Restacked our wood pile to prepare for crazy rain.
This is not an exhaustive list, but 'Do you see what I see?'
That's right.
Its not a long list of school assignments and projects.

I have been homeschooling now for a long time. Every year, until recently, I rejoice that the holidays are here and then find myself fighting off the feelings of guilt that we are not doing as much traditional school work as the world might think is necessary...

Do you struggle with maintaining a consistent pace in your homeschooling?
Do you find yourself fighting off feelings of guilt and condemnation, because you believe "others" may feel you should be doing more?

For you new homeschoolers, do not lose heart!
Here are a few secrets to Homeschooling through the Holidays (or any season for that matter):

Remember that you are the ones in control of your children's education. There are times where you need to work through the writing process and help your child produce a beautifully written 5 paragraph essay. There are also times where the best education your child can receive is to join you as you lay aside "school" to meet the needs of someone in your sphere of influence, or to enjoy a life-skills experience together. You get to decide when these things happen.

Purpose to live your life "Out loud" in a way that causes your children to want the kind of life you lead. Circumstances, finances, and living conditions might not be ideal in your mind, but the way you live your life is critical.

Purpose to seek peace, love, joy, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self control in your every day schooling.

Have your holiday celebrations, traditions, and routines take center stage. Be creative as you pull out "school" lessons from Christmas carols and volunteering.

Use the bustle of the holidays to allow you to reevaluate how you are schooling. Something magical happens when life derails our plans. We can see clearly what is working and what is failing. 

Remember homeschooling is like long distance running, not the 100 yard dash.  Allow the holiday rush to give you permission to slow down and focus in on that certain project your kids are working on right now. Remove the due date in your mind and enjoy the learning process!

The New Year will bring a burst of excitement with it and will likely renew your teaching energy. For now, look around you and enjoy your children and the teachable moments that surround you!

Here is a peek at what we are studying:

15 Advent and Christmas Math and Reading Activities- 3rd-5             All About Snow-4th, 5th, 6th Grades- No Prep

This snowman pack was designed by our youngest son 
the snowman "fun Pack"- (Created by our nine year old)

Learning to Speak in Front of Crowds

One of our goals as home-schoolers is to teach our boys to be effective communicators.  We strive to teach all of the boys to be excellent in both their written and oral communication skills.

As future Godly men, we believe they need to have the confidence necessary to stand in front of a crowd and deliver a speech.Without dying. Without breaking into a sweat. Without cowering in fear.

One of the things we do for our boys is to look for speech competitions. One of our current favorites is called Oral Language.

The Boys select a piece of literature three to five minutes in length that they not only commit to memory, but then perform dramatically in front of a panel of judges and an audience.

All three of our younger boys competed this year, two of them are moving on to the next level. The reason we are so proud of the boys has nothing to do with how they perform their pieces, but rather how they handle the stress of being in front of a crowd.They are all champions to us!

This is not a small task for either the boys, or me.
  • It takes FOREVER to find acceptable pieces.
  • It takes weeks to meorize the pieces.
  • it takes dozens and dozens of practices to figure out how to act the piece out.
  • It takes me hours and hours to help them perfect their enunciation and timing.
It is always worth it!
Today I recorded two of the pieces to share with you and your children. Enjoy!

What kinds of things do you do to help your children become comfortable in front of a crowd?

All About Snow-4th, 5th, 6th Grades- No Prep
This is his first year competing. He is nine years old and was terrified to go in front of the crowd. It has been a HUGE growing experience for him to participate.

This guy is one of my "ham children". This piece is hysterical and he does a masterful job performing it.

Thanks to Anchor me Designs for the cute graphic above~

Click to see My Newest Activity Packs


6 Advent Countdown Ideas: Start Now!

I love the holidays! I love our Lord Jesus with all my heart and it simply makes my heart skip a beat that, at this time of year, I can celebrate His coming in creative and unique ways.

As a homeschooler, I have to confess that I have an incredibly difficult time focusing on traditional studies during the holidays. I'm simply too distracted by HIM to get too wrapped up in anything else! While we will "do school" we will absolutely spend too much time doing other things... And that is just the way it is:). While I will incorporate "school" ideas soon enough, I want to let you know that if you are like me, distracted by the blinking lights and nativities... It's OK! Actually, it fantastic.

To kick off the Holiday's here at A Better Way to Homeschool I want to encourage you to embrace whatever make your Christmas Season wonderful and find ways to share the wonder with your kids. Dare to break away from traditional schoolwork to really focus on the Lord.
Break out the glitter. 
Roll out the Dough. 
Dust off the piano. 
Be amazed. 
"For unto us a Child is Born!"

I started making Advent Calendars with my kids years ago. Every year I look for new and inspired ways to countdown the days until Christmas.

Here are a few classics.

Easy Paper Christmas Countdown Chains.
advent paper chains with scripture reference: spelloutloud

I make paper chains with my boys every year. We usually write the names of people in our lives on each link and hang the chain for decoration. Each day as we remove a link, we pray blessing over the person whose name is on the link. I stumbled upon another great chain today. Spell Out Loud  has a terrific printable packet that gives you a theme for each day along with a coordinating scripture to read together. I just printed mine. Do this now, so you have all 25 days to enjoy!

Countdown Clips
Kirsty Wiseman makes these cute clothes pin advent countdown calendars. I think this would be fun to hang on the kids door:).

Advent Ornaments

Advent ornaments are another fun way to countdown. Cheri at I am a Momma Hear me Roar had a wonderful post about having a special box of advent ornaments, each with one of the Names of Jesus. I cannot wait to make a box for my own family. I love that she even has a "guess which ornament is most likely to be remade next year!" Too fun.

Make an Advent Abacus
Isn't this one Cute? It was originally from Garnet Hill, but I cannot seem to find a link to it. Instead, I think it would be a fun craft for an older child to make for younger children!

"The Twelve Days of Christmas"
The Craft Patch put together "The Twelve Days of Christmas" which incorporates a present, a story, and candy. I love how this collection was put together to send to a far away family member! This one could either be made for your kids, or made by your kids and gifted to someone special!

25 Random Acts of Kindness

You simply have to visit Tracie's post about this one... What a fun idea! I cannot wait to share this one with my husband and kids!
Grab a copy of my "15 Advent and Christmas Math and Reading Activities here!

Do you have a favorite advent tradition? 
Share it with us and/or link in the comments!

Wintertime Games:
Roll a Snowman Dice Game for K- 3rd Grade Snowball Fight Multiplication Games

Created by Our Nine Year Old

Our youngest son has been "chomping a the bit" to create something for my Teachers pay Teachers Store. I asked him to brainstorm for about an hour this morning to see what he could come up with.

I was impressed with his art work, so we immediately created a fun clip art set to be his first freebie.

We worked together for a few hours to draw and upload his images. I took his images and made them into transparencies so they could be easily added to any documents.

Aren't they cute?

They are free.

Just click on the image to go to my store!

He couldn't stop there. He took his images as inspiration and created a fun little activity pack. I am so impressed by this fourth grade mind! Check out his activity pack!

This pack includes:
  • Create your own snowman scene
  • Create your own snowman poem
  • snowman maze
  • color me snowman
  • build your own snowman
  • snowman word search

Not bad for a 9 year old brain!

Now the other boys will be wanting to create a pack as well.

What did He learn (or at least was exposed to)?
  • brainstorming
  • taking a concept to product
  • how to upload an image and create a transparency (png image)
  • How to use Google Presentation
  • create text boxes
  • add images
  • change fonts and sizes
  • how to create an activity
  • the need to give credit for images
  • and more!
Fun Day!
Be sure to grab a copy of his clip art or fun pack and  leave him a comment below

15 Advent and Christmas Math and Reading Activities

15 Advent and Christmas Activities 
Math and Reading
3rd-5th Grade

I just finished my first advent/Christmas Activity pack. I had a hard time finding graphics that I loved, but I am really excited about this pack.

5 Advent readings for you to use in your weekly Christmas activities, or as your family advent devotionals.

 3 language activities using vocabulary from the history of Jesus' birth.

4 fun math activities  that are Jesus/Christmas focused.

I made this pack specifically for my fourth grader, but the older kids are already begging to do some of the activities. 
I have included an advent calendar and a Countdown to Christmas Chain.
We always write "prayer requests" and "thanksgiving to God" on our chains. Each day as we tear off a link, we thank god for a specific blessing or lift up family and friends in prayer. The kids love this!!

Hope you enjoy this activity pack!

Thanksgiving Week

I am not sure where this year went, but it is actually Thanksgiving week.

It is a bit bitter sweet for me, because our oldest son is actually not going to be able to make it home for the holiday. sniff, sniff. (He is blessed to go visit his sweet girlfriend's family!)

Many years ago I gave up trying to get much school done during Thanksgiving week. Instead, we clean, decorate for Christmas, bake and truthfully just bask in the goodness of God.

My Secrets to Thanksgiving Success
  • I begin to thaw my 25 pound turkey on Sunday.
  • I Decorate for Christmas. (Why do I decorate for Christmas before Thanksgiving?)
    • Hang Outside light. The kids are being trained to be good husbands and daddies someday, so we have been teaching them how to do this task for the last two years.
    • Put up our tree. (Yes, its an artificial one . But it is Gorgeous!) We string the lights and place the ornaments under the tree until after Thanksgiving.
    • Decorate the house. My mom gave me a sweet Christmas scene that I always put out each year, this too goes out before Thanksgiving.
  • I Plan School for the two weeks in between the Thanksgiving Holiday and our Christmas break and the first week back after the New Year.
    • I do not know about you, but I need these few weeks to be light and preplanned. All copies need to be made long before I need them! If I do not have these key weeks planned out, we do not do school.
  •  I bake pies and breads on Tuesday and Wednesday.
  • Wednesday I pull out clean and label all my serving dishes and utensils. I put little post its on each dish with the name of the entrĂ©e or side that is destined to be placed there on Thursday. Nothing is worse than finishing your gravy and having to look for your gravy bowl right before dinner. Pull them out ahead and you will be more relaxed.
    • Thanksgiving No Prep 3rd Grade Math, Reading, and Science
    • Pulling dishes and labelling is a great kid job!
  • Thursday. Thanksgiving Day. This will be my 30ish time cooking and serving Thanksgiving Dinner. We have had years when we celebrate two times so everyone can make it.
  •  Here is my staple Thanksgiving Menu!

Have a Wonderfully Blessed Thanksgiving!

I am excited to share some of my learning packs with you!
6 Thanksgiving Activities Freebie

This freebie has some easy and fun Thanksgiving Activities. Great for K-1 graders.

4 Thanksgiving Jokes Solved with Divisibility Rules- 4th-7thThe Pilgrim packet above is full of activities that are great for 2nd-4th graders.

Color by Divisibility is a fun 4-6th grade activity pack.

                        Here are three of my newest packets.

15 Advent and Christmas Math and Reading Activities- 3rd-5

15 Advent and Christmas Activities

Easy Practice for Order of Operations

Learn and practice the hardest multiplication facts with this fun game

20 Christmas No Prep Math and Reading Activities-3rd Grade
 A fun collection of Christmas themed activities