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Posts posted by OneThoughtMayHideAnother

  1. Coming back to this thread, because doing a survey of science is something that's always on the back of my mind. Not in the immediate plans for us, but probably at some point a little bit further down the road. So, anyway, since my last post I came across a resource that I'd thought I should put out there. I consider it too expensive for what it is, but if you have access to it via your library, I think it's worth checking out. And definitely don't buy the Physical Science set at full price, as it would be much cheaper to buy the books individually on Amazon, especially if you go for the paperbacks.

    Anyway, here are the links. Building  Blocks of Physical Science by Joseph Midthun: I got some of them used on eBay, and I like them. Will probably try to get the rest of the books from this set at some point. My son was immediately drawn to them, and they are a pretty good introduction to a variety of topics. Not quite as low-level and thorough as I'd like, but definitely solid. We read Magnetism and Sound so far. Maybe PM me if you'd like to see what they look like inside and have trouble finding samples online.

    The same author has also written a bunch of Building Blocks of Life Science books: and, but we haven't tried those yet. 

    Another thing that I've started doing is re-writing some of Feynman's "Easy Pieces". They are indeed easy conceptually, but my son finds the language a bit too hard at this point. Might work for a slightly older or more advanced child, though. Not quite the survey you'd like, but just so wonderful, and surprisingly accessible. Also, not sure if your son has read George's Secret Key to the Universe series, but we just discovered them, and my son has devoured them. A beautiful intro to many astronomy concepts. 

  2. 3 minutes ago, lewelma said:

    The other way I think we can support learning is through improving attitude.  But that is way trickier to describe on paper, but it is something that I do very effectively, and is where I really shine as a teacher. 


    This is something I know I need to do better. I realize you mention it's hard to describe, but if you had a moment at some point to elaborate on what you do in order to plant those seeds for a positive attitude, and, in general, what you think are some of the best methods of encouraging the development of intrinsic motivation, I would be very grateful. And I think many other homeschooling parents reading this thread might benefit from your insight, too. 

    • Like 2

  3. 5 hours ago, Jean in Newcastle said:

    I personally am not a fan of retentions through rote learning. Or what is often called “drill and kill”. (I don’t know you so don’t know if that is exactly what you are proposing. ). One of the main tenants of TWTM is not just exposure but providing hooks for recall of information. The more connections you build, the better. People also tend to remember things that appeal to them or engage them in some way. This is where the idea of living ideas and books come from in Charlotte Masons’s philosophy. 

    This doesn’t mean that I never drilled math facts or other things. But it wasn’t my focus. Ideas were the focus with the memorization of facts just allowing  for quicker more efficient ways to interact with those ideas. 

    If rote learning by definition eschews comprehension then I don't think we do much of it at all. Sure, there are math facts, but even those we drilled only after my son has learned multiple ways of calculating things quickly in his head and acquiring a great number sense. (Also, our drill involves his favorite game in the world so he actually asks to do it himself everyday.) So, for example, I don't really care if he memorizes 8+6=14 or if he immediately sees this in his head as 8+2+4=10+4=14. In fact, I almost prefer him to use the second option because his ability to do these things quickly means he has a better feel for quantities. Similarly, I don't care if he has memorized 7x5=35 or if he just quickly sees it as half of 7x10 because he's previously internalized that there are 2 5s in a 10.

    As to foreign language, we acquire vocabulary through reading and listening. It's always in meaningful context. I am quite influenced by the comprehensible input method of language acquisition. I find memorizing arbitrary word lists ineffective. Then, only when we have heard and seen a word enough times in context to have a good idea of what it really means at least some of the time (and this usually goes beyond a simple translation) we input it into some sort of a review system. And even that is transitional. The end goal is to do most of the spaced repetition through copious reading, but at this point there just isn't enough interesting material that only uses the limited vocabulary my son has, and he is simply not able to do enough reading volume for it to be sufficient review in itself. So we rely heavily on flashcards as a crutch. Once we get to a point where he can read children's literature for fun, we won't need them because encountering a word in context while reading is the best review possible.

    Even memorizing Chinese characters specifically is best done with emphasis on building connections and noticing phonetic and semantic patterns.

    I realize that there is this idea out there that focusing on retention means one doesn't focus on ideas. But, in line with what you say, successful long term retention of complex subjects requires engaging with ideas at a deep level. I do think learning some facts at some point enhances overall knowledge acquisition, and that's where art of memory comes in, to make the memorization part playful, quick and painless. But all of this should be done in addition to high level work involving thorough comprehension of material and analysis and synthesis of information, not instead of it. 

    How would one rote-learn high school level physics anyway? How could one rote learn math? Not possible. Comprehension comes first. Problem solving comes first. Playing with the material comes first. But many people do all that and still don't remember much of what they learned a year later. And that's where building a retention system comes in. That doesn't mean drilling and killing at all, but - instead - engaging with the same ideas again and again before they are forgotten.

    • Like 1


    5 hours ago, Plum said:

    I just finished reading this thread. Man I wish I had started it earlier. There's so much good stuff here.

    Yes, this one is amazing. Not sure how good this forum must have been in the past for people to think it's not that great these days. Threads like this are already providing me with a feeling of community that's hard to find locally.

    On 12/31/2019 at 5:35 PM, lewelma said:

    But while walking around the volcano, my older boy told me that he has come to believe that the majority of people have wasted their high school years on content that they will never remember and never use.  This is why he is kicking around the purpose of education as studying true classical virtue, rather than the pursuit of knowledge.  He took a class on ethics this past term, and said that it was Rousseau (I think) that argued that the enlightenment has caused education to change to the study how the world works through science, social science, etc. Rousseau thought that an education  based on understanding the world was a poor substitute for the education Ester Maria argued for in the classics, philosophy, great books, and virtue.  DS is at a Tech school, and yet was strongly influenced by Rousseau into believing that our focus on knowledge is mis-guided.  It was a very eye opening discussion. 

    My oldest child is only 6, so take everything I say with a grain of salt, but I never took the fact that most people don't remember anything from high school to mean there's something wrong with spending all that time and effort on learning, say, biology, chemistry, physics or a foreign language. A while back I had a conversation with a fellow homeschooling mom about her educational philosophy. She bemoaned how much time she had wasted in high school (wow, so had I!) because she had done all this hard work and retained almost nothing. (Yes! That's one of the reasons I'm homeschooling, too! Who wants their children to waste all this time?) But then she went on to say this meant she wouldn't have her children go through all of these subjects. Now, wait a second! Why??? Completely didn't see that one coming, because isn't that quite a leap? I don't know about everyone else, but one of the primary reasons I didn't learn (or retain) much from school was that school placed zero emphasis on long-term retention. What if we designed our courses of study in a way that actually stresses remembering things? Instead of ditching the content, why not bring back the art of memory and rely more on various forms of spaced repetition?

    Whenever I think about what my son should be learning, retention is one of the primary concerns I have. If he spends all this time studying X, how do I make sure he doesn't forget it all? I keep going back to this question and I spend a considerable amount of effort building memory and retention systems. (It goes without saying that deep understanding is another primary concern, but I will say it anyway, because - for whatever reason - remembering and understanding are often treated as if they were mutually exclusive.) 

    This doesn't mean I don't find some value in doing things for exposure only. We are reading through Story of the World for fun, and it's been a fantastic experience, but I'm not treating it as studying history yet. This one is for pure enjoyment and, yeah, exposure. We will go back and do grammar stage history properly at some point, though, and when that time comes, I will do my best to ensure retention.

    Take the way we study Mandarin. To a large extent it's based on spaced repetition, and it's hard work. My goal is for my son to be reading (and comprehending) the language on grade level so that further down the road, perhaps a year or two from now, we can switch to consumption of age-appropriate books and other media as our primary way of review. But review will always be necessary. When I consider how many languages I'd like for my children to learn, the review aspect is of primary importance. In order to maintain, they will need to be immersed in each one of their languages for half and hour to an hour a day through reading or other media. There will also have to be a regular way of interaction with speakers of the language, even if only through Skype. 

    And I see no reason we shouldn't have some sort of a spaced repetition system in place for most of what we study. You can even review the application of concepts through spaced repetition by randomizing the particulars of the questions. And, anyway, as is the case with foreign languages, hopefully, much of it will be covered by what Jean in Newcastle describes here:

    On 12/31/2019 at 11:52 PM, Jean in Newcastle said:

    So many subjects have content that builds on simple concepts and skills so you don’t necessarily need to keep refreshing the simpler concepts because they will be used in more complex applications though not in isolation like when they were first learned. 


    On 12/31/2019 at 6:59 PM, lewelma said:

    There is no way that I can do a standard program of the modern era while concurrently completing a classical education Ester Maria style. But what my ds and I were considering was that high school content is forgotten by almost all and that a better program would be either classical education Ester Maria style OR a integrated Project Based Learning approach, both of which focus on skills over content and both of which lead to long term retention. He felt there are opportunity costs to focusing on content that is forgotten. What else could you have spent your time on? 

    And perhaps working on a lot of projects would help solve much of the retention puzzle, too. I just don't see it as something one needs to do instead of focusing on content. But then again, there's a reason I'm in favor of accelerating kids as much as possible. I am aware that achieving all that I would like us to achieve will take a lot of time and effort. There are so many beautiful things I want to make sure they learn, and I will only have my children at home till they are 18!

    On 12/31/2019 at 2:42 PM, square_25 said:

    Actually, my own similar experience with lots of high school subjects is exactly why I started homeschooling. And I agree with you. I don't think "learning" physics without really fully engaging with it or absorbing the ideas is worthwhile. And I absolutely reject the idea that "exposure to the ideas" is a good way to learn any field. If you want exposure to the ideas, you can buy a fun popular science book, and ultimately you will probably get just as much or more out of it as grinding through the formulas, remembering them for tests, and then immediately forgetting them. 

    I do think it's true that one isn't going to remember everything one studies, but the problem is that the way lots of classes are currently designed, we don't pay any attention to what it is the kids are going to wind up remembering. I spent a lot of time thinking about this when I was rewriting the AoPS precalculus scripts, specifically the linear algebra. What I concluded was that I didn't want them to remember a smattering of disconnected ideas, although I was certainly not going to get them to remember everything in the class. However, I thought there were 5 or 6 ideas in the class that were absolutely crucial to an understanding of linear algebra (what a vector is both visually and numerically, how to add and subtract vectors in both ways, what dot product is and how it interacts with trigonometry, an intuitive and a numerical understanding of what a matrix is, what linear combinations are, etc.) So when I was rewriting the scripts, I was both introducing new material, and thinking about to create a "concept spiral": a way to create reinforcement for the crucial ideas while still moving forward. Whereas the way lots of classes are written, what kids wind up retaining is something truly odd.

    Love this. 

    • Like 3

  5. I didn't mean to come off as flippant, so now that it's not 3 AM my time anymore, I thought I'd elaborate a bit on why I don't see that much of a contradiction in both approaches that folks have been arguing for.

    3 hours ago, Farrar said:


    And if you let kids decide in a vacuum... then you're reinforcing those biases. Because we all grow up with them. Education should make you look beyond those things. And not just in a historical, multicultural kind of way but also just in a personal way. Like, you think you don't like chemistry as a 12 year old? Tweens don't know what chemistry is. Or what history is. Or what literature is yet. And yeah, good teachers can make a difference here - can guide and introduce things. At the heart of things, that's the solution more than a laundry list of content, in my mind. Force the teachers to have a better grasp of content so they can guide and convey it more effectively. And that's a whole other educational rabbit hole. But if the OP's question is what do we require... I'm still left thinking that we have to require some things. We have to require content in some fashion. And it has to have a highish degree of overlap with each other - at least before high school and possibly after high school as well. 

    This is a (more eloquent version of a) rant I often subject my poor husband to. I'm definitely in the camp of instilling content, and a lot of it, in my kids. And I also see Farrar's perspective as deeply rooted in the education debate, educational approach and their far-reaching consequences in the US. Now, I also don't think that the particular people who focus on skills in this thread would disagree that there should be a shared basic content for all, particularly in the realm of science, but also including a broad understanding of history (everyone needs to know what WW2 or the Roman Empire were), or a solid grounding in political geography.

    The way I read it, I see @lewelma or @square_25 focusing on skills in their homeschools because they take the transmission of the basics of content to their children for granted. (Please correct me if I'm wrong, though!) They have and will allow their children's interest to decide what the deep dives are going to be, but if Farrar came up with a set of the most important content requirements for the US schools (a very difficult, but, I agree, also a very important task) I am certain that lewelma's and square_25's kids will have covered and exceeded those (even though lewelma is not even based in the US.) Then, in addition to, and not instead of, those content guidelines, they would have facilitated deep dives in many areas. To an extent, I think the varying perspectives that might feel like disagreement here come from some folks interpreting OP's question as what are the musts for them and their children, whereas Farrar placed more focus on policy and what the musts should be for all kids. 

    A slightly different point when it comes to, say, math is this. I work with my particular child, and I will teach them as much math as they can master before they turn 18. The limiting factors will be time and innate ability. I think it's difficult to decide on national scale whether we should have everyone take calculus in high school. But it's not as difficult in a homeschool. I think I should teach my children as much math as they can absorb, reasonably. So, I'm not advocating for doing hours and hours a day for everyone, but I think it should be several hours a week, for years, till the children leave home. This will lead to some children mastering calculus, analysis, discrete math, and more, while other children will barely get a grasp of algebra. Everyone works within their own limitations, though. Same goes for science. I think everyone here will agree their children should spend many hours over many years studying biology, chemistry and physics. Everyone will want the basics covered and everyone will want to go as deep as time and ability allow. Emphasis will be different, but we will all do as much as we can given our unique constraints. This approach, a natural one, I think, for academically ambitious homeschoolers, which you all are, will lead to all of your children having covered a lot of content. (It is of no help in answering policy questions, though.)

    • Like 6

  6. On 1/1/2020 at 10:39 PM, square_25 said:


    I suppose I can imagine taking Arts and Programming off the list, if a student really hated them, but they are definitely something I'd like if possible :-). You're right, thought, that I think of the others as more essential.


    Programming is on my list as well. I suppose I am biased, as in my pre-homeschooling life I was a programmer by profession, but it's just one of those skills that have made my life easier over and over again. It feels almost like a superpower. It allows you to bend things to your will. It's useful in so many disciplines, so many careers, in any sort of quantitative research. I don't currently work but I still program regularly. Making flashcards for my child taking too much time? Automated much of it it with a quick script. A series of documents in a weird format that's difficult to print? Wrote a program to convert them to make them look the way I wanted. Chinese PDFs available only in simplified characters? Wrote a program to convert them to traditional. Wishing there was a game that would help my kids practice X? Well, I can write one. And so on, and so on.

    Another top educational goal that I have for my kids, and that I haven't seen mentioned much in this thread, is fluency and literacy (including cultural literacy) in at least four languages. We are going for four, which is a lot, because of my family's background. Still, in my mind, learning even one foreign language well, and becoming familiar with another country's literature and history is one of the most eye-opening, intellectually stimulating and enriching educational endeavors out there. And that's not only because of the depth of understanding of foreign literary works, which one could never gain through translated texts, but also because of the whole Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, and the perspective one gains on knowledge acquisition, and knowledge in general. 

    Then, there's physical fitness. Strength, endurance, athletic ability. Understanding of diet. Not sure if basic cooking goes in here as well. But, anyway, having a strong and healthy body that is capable of doing things like a pull-up or a sprint, or whatever else is a good goal given everyone's natural limitations, makes everything else in life so much easier. Being in shape clears mental space to focus on other things. Ideally, I'd also like my kids to master a martial art and to highly enjoy another sport or two.

    Anyway, these are the ones I haven't seen mentioned much. The rest of my list is probably pretty standard and similar to everyone else's. 🙂

    • Like 3


    On 12/28/2019 at 12:00 PM, LauraClark said:

    We're on break from school for a couple weeks, which always makes me reevaluate what I'm doing/work on doing things better.  Plus I'm enjoying reading the in-depth discussions on the general forum about the old-school ways of home educating.  Which leads me to math.  I LOVED math in school.  My 8 yo son hates it.  He thinks it's boring and it's the subject that takes up the most time (partly because he drags his feet, but partly just because it's the longest subject).  I'm using R&S curriculum right now and we're going through it pretty quickly (I don't assign every problem and sometimes we skip lessons).  Right now R&S has us learning the multiplication and division facts.  He definitely understands the concept, but just needs to work on memorizing (which I think is important).  So a couple of questions: how do you help your child enjoy math?  It never occurred to me that my children wouldn't like math since I loved it so much.  I'm not sure if it's just that it's not challenging enough (he says he doesn't want anything challenging, though...but I'm not sure he even knows what he wants).  Does anyone do math without a curriculum or loosely based on a curriculum?  R&S is pretty dry, but I feel like I would miss teaching him things if I went totally without a curriculum (like he'd be in highschool and I'd suddenly realize I never taught him how to read a clock - ha!).  Things I'm not interested in: spending a lot of money.  I don't want to switch curriculums or buy lots of flashy hands-on things. Square_25 : I feel like you would have suggestions!  Thanks!


    What is your policy on screen time? My son is currently working on 4th grade math and he has just gotten to a place where I consider his math facts solid, all thanks to two RPG games I found for him online. (Math Quest and Math Quest 2.) The games were written by a 3rd grade math teacher, and are completely free and utterly wonderful. My son loves them so much he'd play them for hours everyday if I let him. And since he's only allowed to play them after he's done his school work for the day, it also motivates him to get all of his other work done early.

    I have tried so many other approaches to practicing math facts, and nothing else has come close for us in terms of either effectiveness or enjoyment.  We really sampled it all before: Reflex Math, XtraMath, flashcard games, wrap-ups, TimezAttack, Times Tales, you name it. 

    So, anyway, I'd highly recommend taking a look at the games. And while your son plays them and learns that math can be fun (OK, I guess it's not real math, just math facts), you could, as others have suggested, re-evaluate your curriculum. My son and I are working through Math Mammoth which is conceptually solid and ridiculously easy to implement for the parent. It's also inexpensive. I am in love with it and highly recommend it. Perhaps you could get some sample chapters online to see if your son would tolerate it better?

    On 12/28/2019 at 6:03 PM, square_25 said:

    In my whole homeschool class, no one but my daughter knew what an equals sign means. "It means you put down an answer, right?" Most programs expose kids only to the operational and not the relational meaning of the equals signs until, like, pre-algebra. We assume students know it, but they really don't. (There are whole Math Ed papers about this! I looked the issue up after I noticed it.) 

    This is why I advocate first thinking through what concepts are important, and then thinking about how to design the program. You clearly already knew that the concept was important, so you focused on it. Someone who's just going through a program may not. 

    I saw this subject discussed in another thread and I just couldn't wrap my mind around kids not knowing what the equals sign means. Fascinating stuff. I have no experience teaching little kids other than my own, so I find it very interesting to hear from people with more teaching experience. Anyway, happy to report Math Mammoth teaches the meaning of the equals sign very thoroughly, in case OP might consider it.

    • Like 1

  8. Yes, these big beautiful overview books have been so useless for us so far, to my disappointment. I have some DKs for ancient history, and they never get looked at. My son prefers books that he can read linearly, I think.

    Anyway, these Usborne science ones might just strike the right balance, especially if it's the parent reading them out loud and deciding when to include the stuff on the margins, etc. Definitely check out the samples, though. Here is the Biology one, for example:

    • Like 1

  9. I know a homeschooling dad who used Usborne's "What Is Biology All About", "What Is Chemistry All About", and "What Is Physics All About" as a survey-style intro to science for his little kids. He would just read these books out loud to the kids on a semi-regular schedule, and answer questions as they came up. I believe the book "What Is Science All About" has all three of these in one volume.

    I know it's not really a curriculum, but it's relatively low cost ( and simple to implement, so might be worth checking out as something to start with.

    • Like 2

  10. You, guys, write some of my favorite threads on this forum.

    On 12/19/2019 at 11:19 PM, square_25 said:


    My daughter broke things down like that for a long time. I did eventually need to drill somewhat to get her faster, but I think it helped her to work through things in her own way for a while. I think it also pays off in algebra to do this kind of manipulation: you really get a sense for how numbers work and how operations interact. 

    Yeah, I've been thinking about how to find mathy friends for my daughter. She's in my 8-10 year old homeschooling center math class... and she was getting the hardest worksheet of all the kids, which wasn't exactly what I was going for. She did meet other kids who were natural at math, but she's considerably ahead, despite being one of the youngest kids. I've thought about either starting a math club or registering her for some of the accelerated after school classes.... 


    You need to start recruiting the parents. 🙂 Your daughter is way more advanced than most of the kids around her, but that gap will only grow unless you convince some of the parents of the naturally mathy kids you mention to start educating the way you do. Not everyone will have the natural ability that your daughter has, of course, but the most frustrating thing is that even the kids who could be as advanced as she is likely aren't because their parents are unschooling or afraid that teaching young kids rigorous academics stifles their creativity, or some other such... philosophy.

    My son's best friend is very much like him: also multilingual, plays the piano better than my son, but perhaps doesn't read material that is as advanced, does math at a similar level. They recommend and lend books to each other. It's adorable. They both have just turned 6, and they still play like most 6 year olds do, but their similar academic backgrounds make it so much easier and natural for them to communicate. 

    Now, one of this girl's parents leans quite unschooly, but I think I've been able to help the other parent remain excited about early academics by my constant blabbering during our play dates about all of the cool stuff I've been doing with my son. And there's another friend I'm working on converting to our way of doing things, too. I wish I could build a larger group, of course. That whole community building thing is definitely the one area of homeschooling I will need to focus on improving for us. Where is the 'sighs in introvert' emoticon when I need it. 🙂


    On 12/20/2019 at 12:50 AM, lewelma said:

    My ds was doing AoPS Algebra completely independently (as in *reading* the textbook and solutions guide at 9, and doing ALL the challengers) while concurrently memorizing his subtraction facts.  He knew he needed to do it, but he found the memory component very difficult back then. I have always said that if he had been in school, he would have been considered bad at math.  If it was too easy, then he just couldn't concentrate and would get everything wrong. 


    I am so grateful you wrote this because that's exactly what I've been thinking that is going on with my son, but wasn't sure it could actually be the case. He seems to grasp new ideas so quickly. We do a lesson, he immediately gets it, then we do some exercises and by about the 10th one, he's out. Whenever it gets boring or too easy, it's like he's unable to focus and simply can't do it. He's recently been playing this great adventure game to practice his math facts, and he does so well answering all sorts of questions when the slaying of the Numerator boss is at stake, but when I want to do a review with him, he's out by about the 7th question.

    • Like 3

  11. Love these threads. Love reading what others are up to and learning from those more experienced than us. It's also a great opportunity to reflect a little on where we are headed.

    So let me start with plans for my older boy, who just turned 6, and who's really, officially "doing school" with me on most days now.
    • Start reading early elementary level chapter books (like Magic Treehouse) in Mandarin by the end of the year. I am incredibly excited about how far we've come in the 20 months or so of studying the language, even though I realize we still have so much further to go.
    • Maybe have him start reading in Polish. Not in a hurry there. But a definite goal for me: read Polish books to him on most days of the week.
    • Learn spelling and increase fluency in handwriting enough to be able to write down his own "stories", letters, and anything else he might want to write down. I can already see how much this will empower him - just like the ability to read, which gave him so much freedom and independence.
    • Let him continue reading and enjoying books in English. No curriculum there. Just one goal for me: keep supplying him with interesting stuff to read that is both somewhat challenging and age appropriate. Perhaps try to introduce some more non-fiction into the mix. Continue reading history.
    • Keep working on fun math competition problems. Finish 5th and perhaps part of 6th grade of Math Mammoth. Successfully take part in Math Kangaroo (as in, be able to sit through the whole test, focus on solving problems for at least half of its duration, correctly fill in and hand in the answer sheet.) Work towards having him scribe his own math for at least half of the MM problems that we do.
    • Keep doing some biking, hiking, tennis and soccer for fun, when the weather allows. Aim for 3 hours outside on most days.
    • Continue enjoying music, singing and learning to play the piano at home, and maybe look into taking singing lessons.

    And then there's the little boy, who just turned 3, and who is still a mystery to me in terms of what he'll be like when it comes to learning. What will he enjoy? How much "school" will he ask for? He does like listening to books, so I definitely want to give him the gift of early reading, which has worked out so beautifully and gave so much independence and confidence to his older brother. But with this one, I somehow just don't know. He's very, very quick, and very, very stubborn. So the goals are tentative, very tentative:
    • Go from reading the simplest phonics readers in English to reading Magic Treehouse-type books.
    • Maybe do some Mandarin.
    • Keep doing soccer, scooting, walking, going outside for 3 hours on most days. Transition from balance bike to pedals when he's tall enough.

    • Like 1

  12. I was in a very similar situation with my son, who is turning 6 in a couple of months. He has been reading independently for over a year now, but I delayed his handwriting instruction because he's a lefty, and also because bad handwriting runs in my family. So I was nervous and kept overthinking. I did teach him basic letter formation when he was 4.5 using two iPad apps: the Letter School (you get to choose the font, and I believe both ZB and HWT might be among the options) and Wet Dry Try by HWT. I also ended up getting him a small slate on eBay and had him use it to practice writing letters in chalk, the way Wet Dry Try teaches them. It was fun. The HWT app has a toggle for lefties to adjust the direction of some of the strokes. If you are not ready to commit to a curriculum, perhaps you could try these two apps + slate and chalk first. 

    So, anyway, we finally started proper handwriting instruction in September. I decided to go with GD Italic, and we both love it. I really don't know what I was worried about. My son's handwriting is completely legible now, and actually quite pretty as for the handwriting of someone who's only been practicing for two months. GD has some recommendations for lefties in terms of positioning the paper, etc, and I let my son use some of the lefty modifications he learned from the HWT app. I watch him like a hawk when he practices because I want to make sure he forms good habits. I often step in and have him practice a letter that I think he's not doing very well with. I always try to explain why a particular letter looks good or bad. But we keep our handwiring sessions very short for now: one page in the GD workbook plus one sentence he gets to come up with by himself.

    I like the look of GD Italic, although I prefer the loopy cursive styles if they are done well. Still, my goal was for my son to have legible, comfortable and pretty handwriting, and I thought GD Italic would get him there with the least effort and the least risk of having him end up with an illegible or unattractive style. Additionally, we can later do Italic calligraphy (which I think looks stunning) if we want to kick it up a notch.

    Anyway, I know Italic is not on your list, but I thought I would throw it out there since your situation sounds similar to mine, and the curriculum has been working so well for my leftie. Good luck!

    P.S. My son finds the Paper Mate triangular #2 lead mechanical pencils very comfortable to write with. I have a bunch of those things that you put on pencils to make the grip more comfortable, but we haven't really been using them.

  13. My son and I have recently discovered an amazingly fun adventure (story-based) game aimed at practicing math facts: Math Quest. The game is built around a very involved world (just have a look at this map.) You go on quests, dig for treasure, collect interesting items, visit shops, towns, caverns, deserts and mountains. You can even find a cave-dwelling sage that rewards you with gold if you answer a math puzzle correctly. It's so much fun I'm almost hesitant to share it because I'm afraid that once it becomes popular, the website might struggle with the traffic, given that it's completely free. From what I understand, that website (which has a ton of other well-made games, including Math Quest 2, which works on touch screens) was built by just one teacher. I'm in complete awe of the amazing work that person has done.

    Back to Math Quest. The way the game makes you practice math facts is by having random creatures (an angry bee, a woodland viper, a desert troll, etc) attack you. You defend yourself by answering math fact questions. (You can also use some magic, once you've learned enough of it.) The attacks happen very often, so you end up answering A TON of questions in a short time. It starts off gently, with easy addition, and slowly builds up to include subtraction, multiplication and division. You need to answer quickly, otherwise the creature will defeat you. Defeat is not the end of the world, though: you simply get transported back to your base to recuperate. Make sure to save your progress as you go. 

    My son is about to finish 3rd grade Math Mammoth. He's OK at math, and knows most of his math facts, but he is still a bit too slow with them, so I want him to keep doing regular practice. He adores this game and asks for it daily. I've previously had him go through Reflex Math for addition and subtraction, and we did some games for multiplication (Timez Attack, etc) but this is by far his favorite. 

    If anyone ends up checking it out, please let me know what you think!

    Edit: So, apparently, the Math Quest 2 on the same site is supposed to be even better and easier for younger children to work with.

    • Thanks 1

  14. Congratulations to everyone!

    My DS only did the first 30 Qs, and he got gold! On the one hand, very proud of him because he's technically still in pre-K (old for pre-K, though: born a month after the cut-off.) On the other hand, not surprised since at some point he was so enamored with Greek myths, he spent half a year reading and listening to stories from D'Aulaires over and over. When I asked him to maybe listen to them as a refresher before he took the test, he said he wouldn't because "mom, the questions are multiple choice." Well, alright. Anyway, we'll have to do the special theme section next year, too! As many on the forums suggested, we'll probably just keep adding one section a year until he's able to do well on the whole test. Excited. Haven't told him yet because I know he will get impatient to get the medal. (Yeah, he's not in it for the sense of academic accomplishment, he just cares about getting an actual medal he can play with, lol.)


    • Like 3

  15. DS5: K

    Math: we'll probably be anywhere between half way through to mostly done with MM3 in September. So he'll likely get through MM4 and half of MM5 by the end of his K year. I'm amazed at how efficient one-on-one mastery-based tutoring is. (Although I shouldn't really be amazed given Bloom's 2 sigma problem and all that.) Anyway, we do about 30 mins of math every day: 2-3 worksheets and some games, if he feels like it. At this leisurely pace we easily get through 2 grades of MM a year. This is quite exciting to me because of all the cool things we will be able to study once we have a little bit more math under our belts. Of course if he ends up being into math for math's sake as opposed to only wanting to treat math as a tool, that's great, too. We can always add BA or competition math into the mix. I'll continue offering fun math books for him to read, perhaps he'll get into some of them at some point.

    ELA: Reading. I'll just keep letting him read whatever he wants. He reads voraciously, so I'm determined not to fix what ain't broken (for now.) He's currently enjoying Dahl, and still adores his Usborne Young Reading books (the Usborne libraries are literally the best homeschool purchase I've ever made.) We will also keep doing our read alouds at bedtime.

    ELA: vocabulary. I keep giving short definitions for any new words we encounter in our read-alouds. Currently also casually trying out other things. We have the Mrs Wordsmith's word-a-day thing, Vocabulary Cartoons, will also see if he'd be interested in Greek/Latin root study.

    ELA: handwriting. This one I have been procrastinating on. We did the HWT printing app eons ago, so he knows how to print his letters, but that's about it. This means that he constantly needs me to scribe his "stories" for him. I love doing it but often simply don't have the time... So no more procrastinating. GD Italic Kindergarten: here we come!

    ELA: writing, grammar, spelling, etc. Well, once he knows either how to type or write by hand, he'll be able to write his "stories". Good enough for me. We need to finish Talking Fingers: have been very inconsistent about it. I'll teach grammar concepts as they come up, but no curriculum yet. I might start teaching phonics rules for spelling from the LoE book, but definitely not doing an actual curriculum either.

    Mandarin. This has been exciting. We've studied it for a bit over a year now, and he's made amazing progress. He knows about 700 characters at this point, and understands about 1400 words. We are using a variety of materials: easy chapter books written for CSL students, Sage Books and LeLe readers written for native kids learning to read the language for the first time, QTalk, Little Fox, and others. So the plan is to finish the current chapter book series we are working on, finish Sage for the sake of completeness (he's already learned most of the characters by now from other sources), do a bunch of the LeLe books, a good selection of the Pleco graded readers, and read most of the Mandarin Companion books. We'll continue our Saturday school, but will think of switching him to the track for heritage speakers.

    Polish. So since Mandarin has been so much fun with us actually being able to read and watch so much material, we haven't done anything about his Polish. He speaks it daily to his grandparents, and watches some great cartoons in Polish, but that's about it. I'm tempted to leave it on the back burner for another year. Perhaps I'll make a conscious effort to speak it to him more often myself or to read more Polish books to him.

    History. Will probably keep our unschool-y approach: just read. He loves the Step Into Reading historical readers, and has enjoyed some of the Who HQ biographies. There is also this really funny series on early American history he is currently listening to on audio about a time-traveling history teacher. Perhaps we'll look into listening to the Story of the World, too?

    Science, geography: unschool (read, read, read, do fun "experiments".)

    Tennis, soccer, martial arts and art classes for fun. Also, biking and scooting daily for exercise.

    Piano: can't decide what to do, and feeling guilty about it. (Basically, do I "require it"? If so, then how long and how often? He's only 5, so I don't want to "require it.")

    Chess: also can't decide what to do. He likes chess, but we enrolled him in a class with a really mean coach, so I had to pull him out in the middle of the semester. He constantly asks to play chess on the iPad. Maybe will try another class in the fall?


    The little one is very jealous of me "doing school" with his older brother, and he insists on doing some himself. He demands to read his Chinese books (Sage) daily, many times a day. He has mastered over 60 characters at this point and he's also sounding out 3 letter words in English. I have no plans for him, though, other than indulging his requests, so in the next 12 months he could either be reading second grade level stuff the way his brother was at his age, or not. He could either continue to to learn to read Chinese at a frightening pace or not. Will be interesting to see.

    • Like 2

  16. I'm having a really great time homeschooling, and I'm starting to feel a personal need to keep better track of the whole adventure. I would like a record that I could fondly look back on. For example, I wish I had a list of books that my son has read, including his thoughts on his favorites (he's only 5, so he doesn't write reports yet.) I would also like to record  things like how my approach to teaching him Chinese is evolving. It's a very data-driven, very fun process for me, so I would like a place where I could write it all down. It's fascinating to see how my child's stamina and comprehension grow. Then, I'd also like a place where I could paste things like videos of my 2 year old singing the ABC song or reading his first words. And I would like to be able to share all of this record with family across the world.

    I have a friend who does a fantastic job chronicling her homeschooling life on Facebook. She posts pictures of her two boys and her daily thoughts on how the whole education thing is going. And this is the sort of thing I'd like to do, but the problem is that I really, really don't want to rely on Facebook (for many reasons, but primarily because I don't trust them with my most personal data).

    And my problem is not just with Facebook. I don't want my family record to be owned by and at the mercy of any corporation. I'm looking for an open source solution that gives me maximum control.

    So, what are the alternatives? Should I look into starting a blog with Seems like an overkill, especially if I have to pay for privacy protection. I do like the idea of a blog, though, even though this is primarily for personal use. Still, I would appreciate being able to share some of the less personal, more technical stuff with other homeschooling parents. I wouldn't want to publish anything personal, like photos of my kids, on the internet, though, unless I have a mechanism to restrict viewership of photos and videos to family only. Facebook makes it easy.

    So, are there any good alternatives to Facebook/Google/etc? (If there are no good alternatives, I'd be open to hearing why Facebook is not that bad, after all.) I am considering setting up a TiddlyWiki, but I don't love the look. But perhaps a TiddlyWiki for personal stuff and a blog for public posts? Or maybe I should do the public stuff on Facebook, since it's public anyway, and find a separate solution for personal posts, pictures and videos? What would be a good medium for such personal record?

    What does everyone here do?

  17. This might be the only chance I get to actually stop and reflect on what I'm doing with my boys, so let me jump right in!

    The older one, who has just turned 5:

    • Chinese. Continue working on Chinese literacy and comprehension. I use vocabulary counts as a crude marker for where he is with his Chinese studies. He's learned about 1000 Mandarin words in his first year of studying the language. In 2019 and 2020, I hope to teach him at least 1500 a year so that we hit 4000 before he turns 7. This should bring us to a level where he can truly understand the cartoons he watches in Chinese, read simple books, and have conversations with native speakers. At that level, his study of Chinese might become more self-sustaining: we will be able to learn more from just reading progressively more difficult books and talking to the grandparents. In 2019, we should be able to finish Sage Books & read through at least 2 levels of our LeLe Chinese booklets. We will also likely finish studying Journey to the West via the fun Little Fox cartoon version. His current vocabulary covers about 73% of all the vocab used in the show. By the end of the year, I think we will be closer to 90%. I will probably stop focusing on writing Chinese so much, because he's currently not enjoying it. He knows how to write about 350 characters, so we will keep reviewing those, but likely won't add to that number next year.
    • Polish. Perhaps I will finally finish teaching him how to read in his second language: Polish. He continues speaking Polish on a daily basis with his grandfather, so I just need to focus on making sure we read Polish books to him daily so that his skills keep progressing. We will keep it light and fun.
    • Math. We will finish 2nd grade Math Mammoth by about March or April. We should be able to get most of 3rd grade done by the end of 2019. We don't spend too much time on math everyday, and as much as I'd like to add more, I think I'll stick to the 20 or so minutes a day that we do now. It is working well. It is an appropriate level of challenge and not too tiring.
    • Handwriting. It's time to start! He knows how to write his capital letters from when we did some fun activities with an iPad app and a HWT-style chalkboard about a year ago. I will look into doing 5-10 minutes of handwriting on most days. Haven't decided on a program yet, but leaning towards Getty-Dubay italic. 
    • Spelling. I might look into doing a fun spelling+typing-in-one program for a couple of minutes everyday. He reads very well for his age, but doesn't have a great grasp of phonics. I intend to fix it through a spelling program. Not sure what we'll use yet, but I'm planning on keeping it light and easy in 2019.
    • Piano. I will likely not get a teacher yet. We will continue self-studying with Hoffman Academy, Piano Maestro and Soft Mozart. No goals other than to enjoy it and hear music everyday. I might look into getting a guitar for him, too.
    • Reading and literature (in English). His 5th year of life was when he went from reading early readers to 100+ page easy chapter books. I haven't been monitoring his progress recently: I just let him read for pleasure, which he does a lot, reaching mostly for books from our Usborne reading libraries & the Magic Treehouse series. In 2019, however, I'd like to go back to monitoring his progress at least a little bit. I will likely ask him to read a couple of pages to me every night before our usual read-aloud time. We will continue covering classics of children's literature as read-alouds. Some of the ones we enjoyed the most in 2018 were: "Heidi" (just finished), "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe", "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz", "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH", "Jenny and the Cat Club", the Catwings series, "The Tale of Despereaux", and "Winnie-the-Pooh". He has also recently started reading Harry Potter with his dad. He's enjoying it immensely, and I hope they continue with their semi-regular reading sessions in 2019. 2018 was also a big Greek mythology year for us. He was enthralled with d'Aulaires and George O'Connor. He's really eager to sign up for the National Mythology Exam, so we will probably do that in early 2019. Then we will likely temporarily leave the Greeks, and cover something else: the Bible perhaps? He's very much enjoyed the couple of stories I have recently read him from Egermeier's, so we might do a big project where we'll read from it everyday in order to finish in 2019. It does seem a bit daunting, though, so might not get done. Perhaps we'll simply continue with d'Aulaires, and cover their Norse Myths.
    • Sports. We've aged out of our local baby soccer program, so I need to figure out what to do instead. We will likely resume our tennis lessons in the spring, and I might look into doing them more regularly. We might shop a couple of local martial arts classes, but I'm not committed to anything at this point. We will continue to make sure the boys walk, bike and scoot daily. Also hoping I'll be able to find a very low-pressure chess class for him, since he likes playing chess so much, and since I have no time to support that interest at home. The class we signed up for this past semester was a disaster, with a very high-strung coach. I want something light and fun. Not planning on making a Kasparov out of the little guy: just want him to meet people, learn a little bit, and have fun!
    • History, science, everything else. I'm tempted to say I will not do anything formal about any of these in 2019! At most, I will institute 30-minute read-aloud sessions to continue exploring these subjects. Perhaps I could come up with a weekly schedule: reading from a history book on MWF, from a science book on TuTh. Maybe. Definitely not committing to anything, though.

    The little one, who has just turned 2. He is an early talker who speaks a lot in all of our 3 languages. So we'll continue playing with him in all 3. He knows all of his letters, and his brother started blending before he turned 3, so we might be able to teach the little some simple reading skills, too. But only if it's fun for everyone. My big hope for him is that he'll start being able to focus on books. I'd love to read more to him: we have all those board books and picture books from when his older brother was younger! The 5-year-old, I'm sure, would enjoy hearing most of them again, too, so if by the end of 2019 we can all sit down for our read-aloud sessions together, I'll be a very happy mom. 

    Oh, one more thing. I would love to come up with a good and easy way of recording some of the stuff we do. Some sort of a diary with pictures. There are so many wonderful moments in our homeschool that I wish I were capturing.

  18. Gil, this is so inspiring. Do you happen to have any notes or blog posts detailing your boys' math journey? I'd love to learn from your experience. Very curious as to when they started, what curricula/books you used, what material got covered when (e.g., 3rd and 4th grade in one year, etc), daily math routine, participation in any math enrichment/competitions outside the home, etc. You will now have so much time to cover other exciting subjects before the boys leave home! Great work!

    • Like 1
    • Haha 1

  19. Edit: nevermind. I went to their Facebook page, and it said their they had a planned outage this weekend. What a relief. Our data will likely not be lost. :)

    Has anyone experienced issues with what seems to be their newly rolled out website? I'm unable to log my son in. Same on the iPad app: the interface seems to have changed just slightly there, and it doesn't recognize our log-in info. I'm really hoping we're not going to lose our progress data, because my son is now at 97% in addition/subtraction, and we were planning on having a nice family celebration when he reaches 100%. 

  20. 2 hours ago, --- said:

    I wanted mine to learn just to keep those doors open.  When they were small, I couldn't really tell which ones would really dig into it, so I required that they all know how to read music and play basic stuff on the piano.  Kind of like a foreign language.  Not essential, but definitely enriches life.  

    3 of them dug deeper into the music.  2 did the basics and just play around with it every now and then.  All, however, have a wide appreciation of all kinds of music and are pretty good at evaluating it and knowing exactly what they like and what they don't like about it.  And music is a part of all their lives even as adults.

    It was also a stress reliever for my kids.  When the academics (and life) were hard, they could sit and play with the instruments and music and forget about everything.    

    Could you share what curriculum/program you used with your kids and at what age? Thank you!

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