02 May 2017

Day 43 / 106 - The Book That Revolutionized My Homeschooling

Friends.  I finished reading a book this year that has completely changed how I approach homeschooling my children.  It was not the Bible, or a devotional, or a book about Jesus (although those are all worthwhile).  It was not a book about Latin, or the classics, or history (again, all worthwhile reads).  It was not a book about how to, or how to not, or why you should homeschool (but I have many favorites there).  Nothing on Classical Ed vs. Charlotte Mason vs. Unschooling.  This book falls into a completely different genre.  Upon finishing it, I have gained more confidence and more knowledge to homeschool my children.  I feel adequately equipped to educate them through high school.  I can't wait to share this book with you.

Wait for it .... 

That's right.  The book is the math textbook, Saxon 7/6.  Crazy, right?

This year, I committed about 45 - 60 minutes weekly to work through this book independently.  Usually, I would treat myself to a latte, and rather than opening a novel, I would crack open this math text.  If you are unfamiliar with Saxon, there are 120 lessons in the text.  Each lesson presents a New Concept, a Lesson Practice (with about 8 - 10 problems to solve stemming from the New Concept), and a Problem Set (with 30 problems that review all previous lessons).  In an hour's time, I would work through four or five lessons, solving all the problems in the Lesson Practice, along with working through one Problem Set.  I would check my work as I progressed through the text.

But, let me tell you how this has changed my life.  I now know math.  I now know it pretty well.  Just from this one middle school textbook.

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that last month I posted a plethora of math problems.  I was able to solve those problems (even the SAT ones) because of the skills I learned (or relearned) from this book.  My son is finishing Algebra I.  His math skill-set has far surpassed mine.  Yet, anytime he has had difficulty solving a problem in Algebra, chances are he missed a step with a concept that came directly from this book.  He would ask for help, and I would (and could) help him.  I believe that this book has given me the confidence and the knowledge I need to tackle higher level mathematics with my children.  More importantly, I am joyful about math.  It is fun!

As homeschoolers, we generally spend the most amount of time educating our children in what interests and excites us.  Naturally, those subjects ebb and flow.  Over the last 18 months, I have made it a high priority to help my children master mathematics.  The more I understand math, the more excited I become to have my children experience it, learn it, and master it.  Math has become the defining concept of our homeschool this year, and I could not be more thrilled.  I attribute most of our math success directly to myself spending an hour a week re-educating myself in the subject.  When homeschooling mothers value and commit to their own learning, that will positively influence their homeschool.  Believe me!

My advice to you, if you are looking for a homeschooling book to read and/or discuss during the next 18 weeks before Labor Day, I highly recommend Saxon 7/6.  You will not be disappointed.

24 April 2017

Day 42 / 106 - Mount Mitchell

On December 29th, we journeyed to the dramatic summit of North Carolina's Mount Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi.  At the summit, it was 28 degrees with a windchill dropping the temperature below zero.  We have clearly acclimated to living in the south because experiencing that level of cold was misery.

Day 41 / 106 - CCBC Holiday Performance

Last fall, I posted that my daughter is an Apprentice member of the Charlotte City Ballet Company.  Naturally, that company has a holiday performance.  However, their performance is a tad different from the usual Nutcracker.  We like to call their performance a 'Nutcracker Sampler' because it highlights some of the best pieces of the classical ballet.  This sampler is performed alongside several original pieces of choreography.  Because they've simplified the performance, the company is able to take the show on the road.  Literally.  They performed five different shows at five different venues in four weeks' time.

There are twenty ballerinas in the company, so there is much dancing [and costume changing] done by all in order to perform.  One of the goals of the company is to provide quality performance training and performance opportunities for aspiring dancers.  This is true.  I believe she danced more on stage in these five performances than in all her other recitals and Nutcracker performances combined.  

I'm definitely late to the party with this post because their spring performance is just two weeks away.

Day 40 / 106 - Shakespeare Workshop

A favorite class that I facilitated this year was a four-day Shakespeare workshop.  If you don't remember, last year I became enamored with The Bard primarily because of this book.  Once I learned how to read Shakespeare, I learned that I loved reading Shakespeare.

I opted to discuss A Midsummer Night's Dream.  My children and I were still pretty familiar with the play from studying it last spring.  Plus, if you are familiar with the comedy, there are four different plot lines throughout.  This made simple planning for four days of material.  Our main focus was discussing a different plot line each day.

We kept busy with several enjoyable activities which helped us know and understand this comedy.  For many students, a highlight was the different scenes we acted out.  [If you are searching for Shakespeare resources, the California Shakespeare Theater has some superb teacher's guides.]   Because it is such a win in my Middle Ages History class, we also hashtagged several of the characters.

On a personal note, while searching the library for resources on A Midsummer Night's Dream, I stumbled across this book.   I thought it would have tips on teaching Shakespeare.  It doesn't.  Instead, it has the life-changing story of a thespian-turned-author who started a Shakespeare club at a struggling, inner-city school.  Her club performs A Midsummer Night's Dream.  If you are a lover of teaching, learning, acting, Shakespeare's notorious comedy, or life-changing stories, I highly recommend this book.  It is excellent.  You will not be disappointed.

Day 39 / 106 - Cake Decorating

One of the benefits of being a part of the Charlotte YMCA homeschool program is the variety of classes that my children now have access to.  In November, my daughter spent an afternoon in a fondant workshop.

If you know her at all, you must know that this was a high point of her year.  Naturally, the cheeseburger and french fries, that she made out of a cupcake, deserve their own blog post.

Day 38 / 106 -- Foot Locker Cross Country Championships - South Regional

[My son ran a race exactly five months ago.  I'm posting about it today.  Ha.]

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, my son raced in the Freshman 5K at the Footlocker Cross Country Regionals.  You may remember him participating in the same event in 2015.  Since this race is a local event, I'm anticipating it will become a part of our Thanksgiving tradition for as long as we reside in Charlotte.

It was bitterly cold and windy that morning, which negatively influences a runner's race pace.  Even so, he clocked in at 19:49, shaving almost a minute off his time from the previous year.  McAlpine is known for being a tough course.

Impressively, his father raced in the Master's Division, clocking in at a respectable 21:30.

31 March 2017

Day 37 / 106 - #30DayMathChallenge

Hey friend ...

Will you join me in a math challenge?  Not a challenge for your children.  A challenge for you.

You are probably no stranger to the 30-Day-Challenge world.  If you search 30-Day-Challenges, you will find a plethora.  Nutrition, fitness, mindset, organizing, budgeting, reading, photography, crafts.   The list continues.

Over the past several months, I have been diligently searching for a challenge that includes higher-level math.  I have yet to locate one.  What they say is true -- Mom!  Please don't make me do this.  I will never use Algebra again.

I often tell other homeschoolers that homeschooling needs to be treated like a job.  Naturally, it is a job with a very flexible schedule, but some days, in order to get the work done, a homeschooler needs to clock in and complete her necessary responsibilities.  Distractions need to be left at home.  Dishes (ignore them!) Facebook (log out!) phone calls (decline!) cannot be completed at work, and sometimes they cannot be completed during a home educating day.  Save the distractions for when you clock out!

Also, if an employee wants to keep her job, and do it even a little bit well, she needs to be willing to learn new responsibilities and duties.  The accounting software is unfamiliar and overwhelming on day one.  But with time, training, and learning, the software is mastered.  Using it might even become enjoyable.   With much confidence, this employee might even start training others.

I have mentioned this before, but I will say it again ... This year my children and I have focused on math.  So. Much. Math.  Let me digress by saying, I think it's totally acceptable for a homeschooler to outsource some of their math journey at the higher levels.  Whether it be via video curriculum, private tutor, or an outside class, there are experts in this field that can and will teach your children this subject.  That is ok.  But, I think if a homeschooler wants to do the job, and do the job well, she will need to revisit higher-level math.

This year, I have learned that I don't need to know all the math.  But I do need to know some of it.

I have an average mathematics back ground.  I took math in high school because I had to.  I took exactly one math course in college because that was all I was required to take.  Because I have committed myself to learning math and helping my children master math, I'm amazed at how much I've relearned and rediscovered in a matter of months.  In fact, like most subjects, I wish I could go back and retake it!

So, this brings me to my challenge.  In the challenge-world, we witness better results if someone has done a little bit of fitness everyday, as opposed to skipping 29 days of working out, and cramming it all in on day 30.  Same with dieting.  We know that the house stays organized if we make it a priority to tidy a few minutes a day, rather than being forced to invest an entire weekend just to sort through the mail.  We improve in photography, crafting, reading, and more if we commit to it daily.

Will you join me in completing one "higher-level" math problem a day?  I'm putting "higher-level" in quotes because my problems range from 7th grade math to Algebra II.   I've spent most of my spare time this year solving math problems.  I know that's not a hobby that sounds delightful to most people, but I have come to truly enjoy it.  I've unearthed a few that I think will challenge your mind and build your confidence.  A little bit everyday goes a long way.

I'm planning on posting one problem to Instagram each morning in April, along with a teaser one for this post.  (Wish me luck.  This requires serious organization on my part!)  At some point during the day, I will also post the answer.  In the future, I will write an entire post on how valuable it is to give your children the answer guide while learning math.  Each problem will take you less than a few minutes to solve.  I am confident that you will build your math confidence.  If you have questions, let me know.  If I can't answer you questions, I will default to my husband and/or my son.

My Instagram can be found here.  I will be using the hashtag: #30daymathchallenge.  Tag away if you have any a-ha moments.

I also want to add that if you aren't a homeschooler (and you've read this far, kudos to you!) this challenge is still for you.  We model learning to our children regardless of the specific educational path that we're on.  Plus, you might actually uncover a few tricks to help your children if they have homework questions.

I'm anticipating being smarter with you at the end of April!  Let's math together.  Here is today's problem: