It’s pretty rare to find a homeschool mom who waxes poetic on how much she loves teaching math. If you’re like me, maybe you’ve felt anxious about teaching a subject that you hated as a child, or are afraid you just aren’t competent to do […]
Teaching math hasn’t always been a struggle in our homeschool but meeting my children’s individual needs, knowing how to give them extra help, and squeezing it all in has become more and more of a challenge over the years. While I do love our math […]
Last year, I instituted Fun Fridays in our homeschool to add variety, fun, and hands on application to our studies. It is definitely a popular feature around here! I’m always looking for more ways to add to our rotation of activities, so I was more […]
My kids love memorization. They have memorized poetry, scripture, even boring grammar lists, happily and without complaint. But math facts? They are a huge struggle. I often wondered if this discrepancy in ability to memorize was due to the subject matter – words & ideas vs numbers. If so, I must be afflicted with the same thing, as I have struggled my whole life with math and yet I can remember pretty much every word of The Cremation of Sam McGee though I haven’t read it in 20 years!
All this to say that I was pretty excited and hopeful when presented with the opportunity to review Times Tales, by The Trigger Memory Co. Why? Because Times Tales is a memory system that uses stories to memorize math facts, which sounds just about perfect for my word and story loving daughter!
Times Tales can be purchased as either a DVD or digital download. I received the digital download, which includes two mp4 videos of approximately 30 minutes duration, and printable files for flash cards, quizzes and a game. We got started right away!
The videos take you through the 6 steps of the program. The first video, Part One, covers approximately half of the upper multiplication tables, and Part Two covers the rest. Multiplication by 0, 1, 2, 5, and 10 are not covered by this program. Here are the steps:
1. Meeting the characters of the story. Each number is dressed up as a character, in this example, the number 8 is “Mrs. Snowman”.
2. Learning the stories. Each story contains two characters representing the numbers to be multiplied. In this example, the characters are “The Sixth Grade Class” representing the number 6, and a chair representing the number 4. The answer to the table is also found in each story.
3. Story Quiz. The video then goes through a little quiz to check for retention of the elements of the story (not the times tables).
4. You tell the story. Next, the student is given the opportunity to tell back the story.
5. Flash Cards with the character symbols. The video then goes through the flash cards of the multiplication tables WITH the character symbols.
6. Flash Cards without the character symbols. The final step is regular multiplication tables flash cards.
After going through the video just once, my oldest daughter got almost all the flash cards correct. I as amazed at how effective the system was, because she had barely even started to cover multiplication tables with her math program! She had only had a basic introduction to the concept of multiplication and the 0, 1, and 2 tables.
Even my husband was amazed that she had been able to retain something she had so little understanding of so very quickly, and he wanted to take a peek at the program to see what it was all about!
The quality of the video itself isn’t much to praise – the graphics and animation are very basic and not at all on par with the current media offerings, but the system’s success lies in it’s ability to create a mental connection with words and images. I wonder if the simplicity of the video is perhaps part of the reason it is so effective? Nothing too flashy, entertaining or distracting to take away from the mental connections being created? I personally found it very boring (and slightly annoying), but to my surprise, my kids just ate it up. Especially my 5 year old! She actually asked to watch it every day! She has only just begun a kindergarten math program, so I didn’t want to get ahead of myself or push her, but I wonder if I pursued it she just might be able to memorize her multiplication tables as well.
We have only viewed the Part Two video a handful of times, but it is more stories and characters in the same vein as Part One. It is recommended to wait at least one week before starting the second set of facts, but I have put it aside for now until our math program catches up with the multiplication tables we have learned with Times Tales. I am so pleased that we are really cruising through multiplication after having spend over double time on addition last year!
I was super excited to have the opportunity to review a Math-U-See product — I have been using Math-U-See from the beginning in our homeschool and am now into the Gamma level with my 8 year old while her little sister (5) is working in Primer. It is a solid, easy to use, hands on, mastery based math curriculum that I haven’t regretted choosing it for an instant.
One of the newest things out from Demme Learning‘s Math-U-See, is their Digital Packs. Digital Pack are a digital alternative to their traditional teacher’s manual and DVD set and provide 12 months of access to streaming of the instructional videos and Instructors Manual, level and test solution pdfs of your chosen level(s). Also included is their awesome Skip Counting and Addition Songs mp3 (these are a GREAT memory aid!), and their Digital Manipulatives. The Digital Manipulatives are an online tool version of their Manipulatives App.
We accessed the materials using both our Macbook and our iPad Mini fairly easily, the only delay being that you have to login to the site each time to gain access. To make things a little smoother for us for our day to day use, I left the pdf page we were currently using open in a tab of my browser. This made it much easier to use and then we only had to login for our weekly video lessons.
While we did have some fun playing around with the Digital Manipulatives, I certainly wouldn’t recommend them as a complete replacement for the physical set. They could certainly be handy for traveling and homeschooling on the go though! My kids are pretty inexperienced when it comes to technology, and had a difficult time figuring out how to “pick up” the blocks, and move/remove them. We are currently working on the lower multiplication tables, which isn’t requiring much manipulative use at this time anyway.
Having the video streaming was a total hit with my daughter, and she really appreciated being able to watch her video at the dining table (or anywhere else), rather than in the family room with her sisters distracting her. I am also able to use the pdf to correct her work, and I’m really happy to have a bit more room on my teacher’s manual shelf with one less book taking up space!
Because I will be putting three children through each Math-U-See level, digital packs don’t make financial sense for me personally — I will still continue to buy their standard Instruction Packs for each level. They may be slightly more expensive than the digital version, but they are a one time cost that will be spread out over all of my children whereas the Digital Packs need to be re-purchased each year and for each level. They would definitely present a cost savings to those who are homeschooling an only child, or for families where the children are using separate math curriculums.
If you are interested in seeing how the Digital Packs work with various ages, levels, and individual homeschooling families, be sure to click the banner below to read the reviews of other Review Crew Members.
Our relaxed, year round schedule of home education lends itself well to ensuring that there is much fun being had at our house! That’s one of the reasons I favour year round schooling – it allows us to have a lighter load and also to “drop everything” whenever there is something else we’d like to do! Some of the things we readily “drop everything” for are spending time with grandparents (who often visit for a week at a time), travelling to spend time with family, play dates with friends, “educational” field trips and taking family vacations at non traditional times.
There is also much enjoyment in our relaxed days while we are at home following our regular studies. Here are a few of the things we have been enjoying while we are learning:
Fun Fridays are something we began this winter and is proving to be so enjoyable that I think we will keep it as a permanent fixture. We have been playing math games while improving Little Sister’s number recognition and sense; and assisting Big Sister’s math fact retention and problem solving skills.
Hands On Learning
My children are both really enjoying the experiments, demonstrations and activities we are doing this year while studying astronomy. Science activities and experiments have always seemed like too much work to bother with to me – I was rarely able to get my act together to have all the required equipment and supplies, and we often ended up skipping it. So this year I cheated – I bought the lab kit to accompany our science spine. I’m sure all the individual items included could be purchased for a fraction of the price, but the money has really been worth it in terms of ease of use. I basically just open the box and pull out the baggies labeled for our particular lesson and we are ready to go. So far since Christmas we have built a model of our solar system, melted chocolate using the sun and a magnifying glass, made a solar eclipse, made a model of mercury, and made a lava demonstration. I also plan to have our experiments on Fridays, to add to the fun we are already having with Math.
Making History Come Alive
History is already Big Sister’s favourite subject, but there are so many ways we add fun to this! History is anything but dry when you take a living book and literature approach to it – no dry, memorization of facts and names required! Even in their play, my girls are constantly reenacting the people, stories, and events of the history we have covered. We have built pyramids with Lego, “mummified” numerous dolls, and the most popular of all activities was building our own volcano and erupting it (half a dozen times at least!) after studying Pompeii. My daughters also LOVE making their own paper dolls, and while only a few have been provided with our Story of the World Activity Guides, there are numerous available online.
Our history lessons this past week have included making Viking paper dolls, putting together a model Viking ship, and making Viking masks, battle axes and shields. I think we have a Viking funeral planned for next week!
Field Trips and Group Activities
We meet with a small group of homeschoolers in our circle of friends once a month for a group field trip. Apple orchard, corn maize, skating, art studio, pottery and gymnastics have been planned since beginning with this group. We also meet two Fridays a month for gym time or art & music. The local homeschooling group also organizes a huge group for swimming lessons once a year. There are likely many options for social activities and group learning in your community for homeschoolers, and if you can’t find any, plan one yourself and invite other homeschoolers!
My girls enjoy having afternoon tea parties at least once a week. There is no particular educational goal here, but we do it because it’s fun and we can!
In good weather and throughout the summer, we enjoy taking our books outdoors. We pack a lunch, books, nature journals, and sun hats and head out either on foot or by bike to a park for reading and playing!
How have you been having fun while homeschooling? Please share with us what you have been up to!
You know what’s also a lot of fun? A giveaway! This is my first post working with the Canadian Homeschool Blogging Team, and along with this month’s posts, we are offering an amazing giveaway from Picabo Yearbooks! Five lucky winners will each receive 1 Picaboo Yearbook -(softcover, 20 pages, 8½x11 size). Giveaway is open to Canada only, age 18+.Enter before May13th @11:59pm EST.
Check out Lisa Marie’s review of the Picaboo Yearbook here.
Check out how the other members of the Canadian Homeschool Blogging Team are having fun in their homeschools here.
And don’t forget to enter the giveaway below!
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I’ve seen a lot online about February Blahs and Homeschooling Burnout, but I have to say, that February was a great month for us! Like most of us, I did grow tired of the snow, cold and short days; but the homeschooling itself has been the smoothest it has ever been! Now this may be in part due to the fact that we are not currently selling a home, buying a home, planning to move, unpacking a move, pregnant or caring for a new baby. Which does, in fact, describe much of our previous homeschooling journey up until this point!
While we are enjoying the continuation of some of our previous selections (Story of the World!), we have also begun some new things that are working out really well.
New for us this winter is studying science with Apologia’s Young Explorer Series, and All About Spelling. I’ve already posted about how wonderfully AAS is working for us. Astronomy is going well also, and I am so glad I decided to opt for a less writing intensive approach for Big Sister and more hands on work than last year. Our previous science selection involved notebooking which she found very tiring and produced quite a bit of resistance. We also did very few of the suggested experiments. Since then we have been doing lapbooks which seem to be more enjoyable for her at this stage of her development, and I have purchased a prepared science kit that covers all the experiments in our astronomy book. No excuses! Absolutely everything is included except for a few perishable items that can’t be shipped in a box (like whipping cream). Last week we made our own eclipse and it even included the flashlight (and the battery) that was required.
Fun Fridays! are still going strong and Big Sister just revealed to me today that Friday is now in competition with Sunday for her favorite day of the week. We have been playing Math Bingo, dice games, and more instead of our formal math curriculum. We’ve also made popsicle stick birdhouses, crafts, art and co-ordinated our science experiments to fall on Fridays. We wrap Fridays up with pizza and movie.
A very welcome improvement in our daily schedule has been the introduction of a formal read aloud time after lunch. While I am a firm believer in the importance of books, reading, and reading aloud, this one had really slipped since the arrival of Baby Sister. From very early on Baby Sister was a book grabber and a poor napper, so reading aloud got the short end of the stick and was relegated to an only at bedtime activity. But for the last few weeks we have had success with curling up on the couch with a few good books for 15-30 minutes after lunchtime clean-up. Baby Sister crawls around on the floor contentedly and we snuggle and read. It seems like a great calm, quiet, segue-way to our daily afternoon Quiet Time. The podcasts from The Read Aloud Revival have been a great encouragement to me, and really got me re-committed to this practice.
Another thing that has been working really well for us is a simple organizational tool – a spiral notebook. When I first heard of this method, I was very skeptical that it would contribute anything worthwhile to our days. The basis of the system is to set up a daily checklist for each child in a simple spiral notebook. The child completes the items on the list and checks them off. Very simple. I didn’t think it would work for us because almost everything we do is teacher dependent. We don’t do a lot of workbook or busywork type activities in our day. BUT I have found that my daughter really enjoys seeing the day’s activities (even housework!) laid out for her. For the first two weeks, she was really into checking each activity off the list but the novelty seems to have worn off. It does however provide her with the ability to be independent about some things such as her math corrections and beginning the required reading for science. It is also helping me to be organized the night before and to make sure I’m ready for each day’s activities. I am also writing short, fun notes to my daughter and she is illustrating her day with stick figures of her doing each subject. Additionally, I’ve added three independent activities to the checklist that I can’t believe I didn’t require sooner: 15 minutes each for independent reading (from our book basket), reading to Little Sister (her own selection), and piano practice. The payoff here is that Little Sister is getting even more read aloud time, Big Sister is getting through all the awesome supplementary reading suggestions from SOTW’s corresponding history and literature selections and daily piano practice is actually happening. Don’t you just love it when something so simple works so well?
We’ve also added a time for “art class” to our weekly activities. So far we have done a crayon etching and pencil water colours thanks to some Youtube inspiration. A few years ago I purchased Drawing with Young Children and I’m planning on starting the lessons from that next week.
Do you know what else is working really well for this mama lately too? The positive numbers on the thermometer, the longer days and the beautiful sunshine! I’m sure we will be adding nature study, and lots of outside play very soon!
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A recent addition to our math lessons (pun intended!) is Fun Friday. On Fridays we will take a break from our usual lessons and do some of the more fun type of math activities. Today my oldest did an addition colour by number page while her little sister matched the Math U See blocks to a page and coloured them. I recently discovered that we had shelved the Test & Activity Book from our Alpha curriculum without so much as looking inside it. Now that we have moved on to Beta, I think we can use it as a sort of fun review of what we have already learned. We are also going to add in UNO, dice games, math Bingo, and anything else I can think of.
We finished off our morning by getting caught up on the History Chapter we didn’t complete LAST week. We didn’t even do a chapter this week. We finished up our chapter on the rise of Islam with the Five Pillars of Islam and then worked on the “supplemental” lapbook. We are a few chapters behind with that one and my daughter did the page for Constantinople today while I read Otto of the Silver Hand. Maybe we will continue to work on History this afternoon? It’s a favorite around here and always considered fun!
Do you have any favorite fun math activities that you would like to share with us?