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How do you run math with 2 or more kids?


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DD5 has recently officially joined our homeschool, and this is the first week in which I'm attempting to work with them both in the morning, instead of working with DD5 after lunch. As a result, I have to work with both of them during the same times. 

Right now, I'm putting them in two different rooms and walking between them. What do the rest of you do for subjects that require fairly intensive discussion, like math? For reading aloud, we just do it together. For Russian, I do it in order with them sitting next to each other. For math, it seems like a good idea to split them up... thoughts? 

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I've set it up so everyone was doing math at the table and I would rotate through helping different people as they needed it. It was beneficial for others to be able to overhear discussions. With your intensive, discussion based approach, though, I would instead work with one while the other does something more independent and then switch off.

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One child did independent work while I did math with the other, then they switched.  

Independent work for a 5 year old could include Kumon cutting book, puzzles, and other fine motor skills activities; reading or listening to an audiobook. Basically practicing not interrupting sibling's lesson while waiting for his turn.

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1 minute ago, SusanC said:

I've set it up so everyone was doing math at the table and I would rotate through helping different people as they needed it. It was beneficial for others to be able to overhear discussions. With your intensive, discussion based approach, though, I would instead work with one while the other does something more independent and then switch off.

It's definitely discussion-based, but the discussions aren't all of the time or anything... a lot of the time they are working on their own, too. On the other hand, "working on their own" largely means doing their own sense-making, so I worry that they'd distract each other. 

But hmmmm, I wonder if putting them in one place would work or not. They've definitely asked for that, but I'm worried about their work quality if we do that. 

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Just now, Sherry in OH said:

One child did independent work while I did math with the other, then they switched.  

Independent work for a 5 year old could include Kumon cutting book, puzzles, and other fine motor skills activities; reading or listening to an audiobook. Basically practicing not interrupting sibling's lesson while waiting for his turn.

I have mathy kids 😉 . DD5's independent work for today was adding three digit numbers using manipulatives... I'm not so worried about her independent work. 

She does love audiobooks, so we HAD been doing that with her! Maybe I should make sure to do that again, hmm. So far, I've been asking her to just play on her own while DD8 finishes up her work. 

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So, I've been doing this with 3 kids for a while now. 2 are the same age, 1 is older, all three are at different points in math.

My strategy has been to rotate through topics with games and hands on work, and then using worksheets at each kid's level for practice. The kids then rotate through independent time with me.  Altogether, it looks like this:
30 minutes: math exploration
10-20 minutes: worksheet
10 minutes: 1:1 time for more in depth work at their level

This is not your method.  You are more Socratic in your approach, but you may want to prep independent work for each kid so that they're able to continue on and practice the skills they're doing with you.

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Adding - the exploration time and the worksheets are on different topics usually.  I have them constantly cycling so that they're always hitting skills they've worked on in a more hands on way, and then practicing later on paper.

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1 minute ago, HomeAgain said:

This is not your method.  You are more Socratic in your approach, but you may want to prep independent work for each kid so that they're able to continue on and practice the skills they're doing with you.

It's interesting... I'm definitely more Socratic in my approach, but I'm realizing I talk about that a lot on the board and don't talk nearly as much about the work the kids do themselves. 

The thing that I do differently from most people is that I almost don't teach. I introduce concepts and then I write problems illustrating the concepts. If they get stuck on the problems, then I will absolutely troubleshoot using Socratic questioning. But... I do in fact try to write the problems so they can do them themselves given the skills they currently possess. 

So I'm noticing that I'm actually spending quite a lot of DD8's math time just sitting there, waiting for her to get stuck! This is where I was thinking it'd make sense to just do their math at the same time. But if they both got stuck at the same time, I can see that being a problem 😉 . 

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Just now, HomeAgain said:

Adding - the exploration time and the worksheets are on different topics usually.  I have them constantly cycling so that they're always hitting skills they've worked on in a more hands on way, and then practicing later on paper.

Would the exploration time be with C-rods? How guided is it? I'm curious how this looks 🙂 

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6 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

It's definitely discussion-based, but the discussions aren't all of the time or anything... a lot of the time they are working on their own, too. On the other hand, "working on their own" largely means doing their own sense-making, so I worry that they'd distract each other. 

But hmmmm, I wonder if putting them in one place would work or not. They've definitely asked for that, but I'm worried about their work quality if we do that. 

In our house, having everyone at the same table lets me use my eyeball lasers to keep people focused on math.

Also, i started knitting in order to force me to sit quietly and not try to always make everyone work through their problems out loud. 😄

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My homeschooling method through the years:

I sit on the middle of my bed and I can help two kids at a time.  The youngest two work with me first.  Then when they are finished, the older kids come in as needed for help with their work.  (My older kids work independently in their bedrooms.)  I cannot help two kids with math at the same time.  It's too confusing for everyone.

 

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4 minutes ago, SusanC said:

In our house, having everyone at the same table lets me use my eyeball lasers to keep people focused on math.

Also, i started knitting in order to force me to sit quietly and not try to always make everyone work through their problems out loud. 😄

Aaah, I didn't even think about the focus issue! My kids are both focused, so they both just basically work when I give them work. I guess that's pretty lucky, huh? My Zoom class kids don't all have this property... 

(I also don't give a ton of problems per day. DD5 gets 3 math problems per day and that's it. I'm going to post them on my blog to demonstrate at some point, because I get the sense that it's pretty different from what people do.) 

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5 minutes ago, Junie said:

I cannot help two kids with math at the same time.  It's too confusing for everyone.

Definitely not. They are all working on different stuff!! 

 

6 minutes ago, Junie said:

My older kids work independently in their bedrooms.

When do they start doing this? 

Do you run math for all of them at the same time? 

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10 minutes ago, SusanC said:

Also, i started knitting in order to force me to sit quietly and not try to always make everyone work through their problems out loud. 😄

Hah, what do you think I've been doing on here this morning, lol? 😛 This is my attempt to keep myself quiet in the morning. 

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1 hour ago, Not_a_Number said:

DD5 has recently officially joined our homeschool, and this is the first week in which I'm attempting to work with them both in the morning, instead of working with DD5 after lunch. As a result, I have to work with both of them during the same times. 

Right now, I'm putting them in two different rooms and walking between them. What do the rest of you do for subjects that require fairly intensive discussion, like math? For reading aloud, we just do it together. For Russian, I do it in order with them sitting next to each other. For math, it seems like a good idea to split them up... thoughts? 

We are kitchen table homeschoolers. 🙂 If both of mine were doing something that needed my help, I would work with one while the other did something else independently, both at the kitchen table. Or one would get to goof off while I worked with the other. I never had them work in their bedrooms or in other rooms.

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42 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

When do they start doing this? 

Do you run math for all of them at the same time? 

I don't really remember when each of the kids started working on their own.  Dd14 has been working mostly on her own for a few years, but dd13 isn't quite ready yet.   I think most of my kids started working on their own by around 6th or 7th grade.

And I'm not sure what your second question means?

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2 minutes ago, Ellie said:

We are kitchen table homeschoolers. 🙂 If both of mine were doing something that needed my help, I would work with one while the other did something else independently, both at the kitchen table. Or one would get to goof off while I worked with the other. I never had them work in their bedrooms or in other rooms.

Our kitchen table isn't big enough. 😉

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Posted (edited)

DS12 gets up and starts his day at with math (AoPS Intro to Alg) at the dining room table; he often eats breakfast while working on math. I'm usually working at the table or a few steps away in the kitchen, and I go to him if/when asked for help.

DS9 will not start school work until after he's eaten and changed, (and done some origami, and read some books, and...) so he starts much later than DS12. He works on his *assigned* math (BA4) in the living room, and he comes to me if/when he gets stuck. He unschools himself with math books during his free time, and he usually brings those questions to DH when he's home in the evenings.

DS7 works on math whenever we can fit it in. We have been focusing on phonics and have been letting other subjects slide, and will likely continue to do so until his reading improves. 

Edited by Noreen Claire
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My three kids each have a list of all schoolwork for the day. They get to choose the order in which they do their work, but if they need me and I'm helping someone else, they can either wait patiently or switch to something different. That applies to math and anything else they need help with.

Mostly they all work at the same table. Sometimes if the girls have something they just need to read, they'll take it to the sofa or bed. But for anything they would need help with, it's all right there together.

Sometimes they all choose to do math at the same time, and it is not my favorite when that happens. 😄 It can go well, but it can also be chaotic, especially for my brain. If it's not working that day, I tell one (or two) of them to switch subjects and come back to math when they can have more of my attention.

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I have learned that I can only help two kids at a time.   And only one of them can be doing math.  Also, it helps if they are close in grade level so that I don't have to keep making mental leaps.

I remember one day when ds20 was in high school I was helping him prepare for the math section of the SAT on my right side while I was helping the littlest one learn K-K-K-Kangaroo on my left.  After a few minutes I kicked one of them out to come back later. 

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1 hour ago, Not_a_Number said:

Would the exploration time be with C-rods? How guided is it? I'm curious how this looks 🙂 

A lot of it, yes, and some of it is other games.

Like this week they are working on multiplication and division.  Our hour is this:

Group work
Begin with a question from Gattegno where it was something like (1/3 x 12) + (1/4 x 8) + (2/3 x 6) = ....  They used the fraction tiles to check their break up of the whole numbers, but this is something they've done for a while and only one needed the tiles for sure.  From there we all did a question from Arithmetiquities, where they used the fraction tiles to keep track through the problem (1/2 x 1, 1/2x1/2 +1/2, 3/4 x 1/2...and so on) as they did the math mentally for each part.  The problem was pretty big for them, and it was more of a discussion of HOW to approach the problem when it's a story like that.  They got the answer, but the important part to me was getting them to see how to break down story problems.

Individual work
They picked worksheets: 1 doing about 40 multiplication problems mentally, 1 breaking out multiplication into place value and adding the parts together, 1 working on writing his numbers the correct way with addition and subtraction of 3 digit numbers.

1:1 time
As each finished, I pulled them aside to work a modified 60 Second Challenge, and go over their independent work, assigning another of their choice if it was a quick page. One kid reviewed negative numbers with me, one on finding equivalent fractions, and one practiced mental subtraction strategies.

Last 5 minutes
To wrap up, I gave them a bingo game I made called Quads Plus One, where they roll a die and multiply by 4, add 1, and cover the answer with a chip.  It's an easy way to work independently, but all together.  Before they got the sheet they needed to make a set of the c-rods, 4 of each, and tell me the total of each group.  I have one who is highly visual and tactile but thinks he's too old, so making everyone build first means he doesn't feel singled out, but he has a better chance of success with a reference in front of him.

The specific goals for this week are:
-see division and fractions as two parts of the same operation
-practice 2s and 4s tables until they are automatic

Continued work is on:
-place value: composing/decomposing, groups of units (1 ten is a one whole unit of tens for multiplication. ex. 2 x 40 is the same as 2 x 4 tens)
-mental math strategy
-subtraction and addition of negative numbers in a visual manner

Exploration is on:
-being comfortable with fractions of 1 and fractions of a whole number, and playing with different sizes to see patterns and equivalencies.

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1 hour ago, Junie said:

I don't really remember when each of the kids started working on their own.  Dd14 has been working mostly on her own for a few years, but dd13 isn't quite ready yet.   I think most of my kids started working on their own by around 6th or 7th grade.

And I'm not sure what your second question means?

Sorry, is all math done during the same time period?

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52 minutes ago, Junie said:

I remember one day when ds20 was in high school I was helping him prepare for the math section of the SAT on my right side while I was helping the littlest one learn K-K-K-Kangaroo on my left.  After a few minutes I kicked one of them out to come back later. 

I feel like I’d get whiplash trying to balance that!!

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I used to start with the older one by doing whatever teaching corresponded to the independent work he needed to do for the day.  Then I switched to teaching the younger one while the older one (supposedly) worked independently.  After I was done with the younger one, I would switch back to the older one and we did whatever reading aloud I had planned for the day.

My kids are 5.5 years apart, so teaching them together was never realistic.  The younger one did listen to what I what I was reading to the older one though as well as any Teaching Company lectures we were watching.

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Posted (edited)

When mine were younger, I'd have them alternate independent subjects and subjects that required me.  We were in the same room, but I might be helping one figure out fractions with manipulatives while the other did a spelling exercise or read a chapter of lit or did handwriting, and then then that might switch.  And, they didn't necessarily need help with the same subjects each day - it was more 'if you see me working with your sibling and you are done, pick up something that you can do on your own...if I am not helping sibling, pick something that you'll need help with'.  Each kid had a basket with materials and a stack of library books for unit study reading, so they always had options.  My older prefers quiet, so if something needed thought they might go to another room.  I tried to do any 'together' activities first or around lunch.  Some things are year or kid-dependent, though...some years I did remarkably little direct teaching for some subjects, some years we spent ages with manipulatives, some years there seemed to be an inordinate amount of drama - so I always try to keep the kids from distracting the other.  We were flexible in how we did things, depending on what the issue was. 

Edited by Clemsondana
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Posted (edited)
15 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

Sorry, is all math done during the same time period?

I give them an assignment sheet on Monday and they each figure out their own schedule for getting the work done.  The younger ones like to do one subject per day -- for instance all of their math on Monday, all of their science on Friday, or whatever.  Dd13 and dd10 try to pick different days for math.

Dh has (finally) taken the upper level math off my plate, so he works with dd16 after dinner.  (She does her lesson during the day and asks him for help in the evening.)

Dd14 have come up with a new system that seems to be working well.  She does her math lessons on her own on Tuesday through Friday.  On Monday we have a tutoring session for her to ask any questions/fix problems and then she has everything fresh in her head for that week's lessons.

I wouldn't say that it's an ideal system, but it's a workable system at the moment.

ETA:  I will say that math was nearly impossible here when we had six different grade levels.

Edited by Junie
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5 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

When you say your kids do their math on their own... are they using their textbooks to get all the information needed to figure out answers?

Well, they're supposed to. 😉  They generally, I suspect, don't read the text.

When they are younger, I go through the practice problems with them so that they learn what to do.

The older kids have developed their own method.  It works, but it's not how I would prefer to do it.  What they do is they complete as much of the lesson as possible on their own, placing stars next to any question that they didn't know how to do.  Then when they meet with a parent (dd14 with me, dd16 with dh) we will check their work and show them how to do each type of problem that they got wrong or that they didn't know how to do.  They will finish the lesson with our help.  When they move to the next lesson they will now have a little bit more knowledge, will complete as many problems as they can, and star the ones that they need help with.

When dd18 was still in high school she preferred the Art Reed Saxon teaching cds.  She would watch them before completing each lesson.

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10 minutes ago, Junie said:

When they are younger, I go through the practice problems with them so that they learn what to do.

Got it. Is the idea that they are using some particular method to do the problems? Like, "use column addition to add some 2-digit numbers," that kind of thing? 

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This is making me wonder... do your kids have lots of independent subjects? Because I basically don't assign truly independent subjects to my kids yet. I guess I've always believed that working with kids is how you make sure they are engaged in sense-making and not in doing rote work, so everything I don't do with them is totally unschooled. They are both big readers and have lots of good ideas, so I'm pretty sure they learn a lot when I'm not there, too... but I don't really concern myself with WHAT it is they are learning then!! 

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My nine year old has a lot of semi-independent subjects. So for example he reads a chapter of history on his own and narrates to me, and then we talk about it. Or, he works at his math on his own and then we go over it together. Same with writing. But honestly there's a lot of leakage  -- we are all sitting at the same small table so he asks questions while he's working too.

Usually we start the day with the activities that we all do together -- read alouds, art, music, science projects -- and then we do writing, math, history separately. 

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1 minute ago, Little Green Leaves said:

My nine year old has a lot of semi-independent subjects. So for example he reads a chapter of history on his own and narrates to me, and then we talk about it. Or, he works at his math on his own and then we go over it together. Same with writing. But honestly there's a lot of leakage  -- we are all sitting at the same small table so he asks questions while he's working too.

Usually we start the day with the activities that we all do together -- read alouds, art, music, science projects -- and then we do writing, math, history separately. 

Long time no see!! How are you? 

Got it about the independent work -- thank you. My kiddos' math is pretty independent except for troubleshooting, I guess. And their Russian cartoons are totally independent. But Russian conversation and history/science aren't independent at all 🙂 . And that kind of finishes up the academic part of our day, except for music. We're usually done the academics (again, except piano) by noon, unless DD8 has decided she needs to clear her head and work on something in the afternoon. 

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My kids are close together in age (K & 1st), so I have to be with each for reading and math. I just allow the child I’m not working with to have free time:  they play (mostly!) quietly with legos, play dough, lite-brite, Lincoln logs while I’m working with the other. We’re all in the same room. Occasionally I have to tell DS6 to not interrupt me and his sister bc she has to focus on math now, but it doesn’t happen often. 

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I rotate- the most I've had is 4 different math sections, snd it was rough!  Took over 2 full hours, 30 minutes or so each.  Right now I have 3 math sections,  and thankfully that's the most I'll ever have again.  Here is what that looks like-  Get your morning started, then its one kid's free time, another's math time.  Free time kid watches a pre-selected show, plays Legos in their room, or plays outside (obviously this depends on age).  Teach Math kid, about 20-30 minutes focused just on that kid.  If they are older, math can take longer- i spend a full hour with my high schooler each day (others are older and doing independent work).  Then kids switch- the one who did math goes off to play, the one who was playing comes in for focused math time.  Depending on age, you may have some overlap you can do together- like fact practice drills, daily calendar, etc.  

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31 minutes ago, Little Green Leaves said:

It would be super strange if Russian conversation were independent 🙂 Like an old art movie with lots of monologuing.

Hahaha, right??!

 

31 minutes ago, Little Green Leaves said:

I'm doing well, thanks! And you? Congrats on your younger daughter joining the homeschool!

Doing well!! We’re actually in NYC for a week... gonna be back for real in June. And thanks!

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Each kid has work they can do, or start, independently, and they can do those whenever they choose. Some of them also have group work, which is done with me and two or three boys, depending on the subject. (I do history, readalouds, science, fine arts, and other things with my 2nd and 4th graders, and 6th grader joins us for Bible, sometimes poetry, and sometimes science or nature study.)

 

Then they each also have subjects they do one on one with me -- math, phonics/reading, foreign language, discussion, and so on. The other kids might be working during that time, waiting for their turn, or done and off to play. Just depends. (Some of it depends on the toddler and whether he is playing happily or wanting to climb on me.). I do not try to do multiple maths at once. 

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We just changed things around because we added DS5 to the mix last week.  I'm also homeschooling two extras this year, but I'll just share what's working with my kids.  

DS8 is working his way through Beast Academy 3D.  For a long time I sat with him while he worked, but I'm realizing now that I was doing that based on my own insecurities in math and that I don't have time during my actual teaching period to sit with him for every pencil stroke.  Instead, I work the whole chapter before he starts it, so I'm confident I know the math, the methods, and anything I might want to highlight or explain differently.  He's a diligent worker, but the nature of BA means his progress is unpredictable.  We read the guide together when applicable, and then I assign him the relevant pages in the workbook.  He works on those independently but in the room, so I can make sure that he's focused.  I check his work frequently and then I either sit with him and rework incorrect problems or have preselected a few problems to discuss and have him orally explain his answer/method.  This means some days we work together for 20 minutes and others just 5-8.  I also have 2-4 problems I write down for him to work daily to keep certain skills fresh or keep working on areas that I don't think BA gives enough time for the concepts to develop.  

DD6 has a mix of independent work and work with me.  Her written work is all independent (although I check it daily with her for mistakes), and we usually have 10-15 minutes together to discuss whatever topic we're working on.  She needs a long time with a concept to really internalize it, so I keep two topics going simultaneously to keep us moving forward and her not bored.  I give her 1-2 more challenging problems on a whiteboard to solve after we work together, and she often uses manipulatives to show her answer.  She spends some of her math time working with DD3, who is obviously not in school but loves to do "school time".  They play Hungry Numbers from Tiny Polka Dot or simple counting or patterning worksheets.

DS5 is just getting into the school routine and struggles with perfectionism.  I sit right with him for his 15 minutes of math.  He does all of it orally or with manipulatives; he's still working on writing his numbers correctly and we do that during his penmanship time.  I have lots of math games for him to play; they are more busy work than serious learning, but they help re-enforce concepts and keep him busy but still in the classroom.  I probably wouldn't use them if I didn't have other students (not my kids) to also work around, but that's how it is this year.

We start our day with math, so I get DS5 started on a math game and DD6 started with her sister, and then I work with DD8 if he's doing a parent intensive lesson.  If DD8 is going to be working more independently for the day, I work with DS5 because we're less likely to be interrupted by someone.  As soon as DS5 is done, he either goes back to a math game or is dismissed from the classroom.  I pause to check DS8's work and make sure he's on track, then I work with DD6, who has probably started her independent written math by this point.  We go through my lesson plan for the day, then I let her loose to finish the problems I've set/independent work.  I check back in with DS8 and work a few problems orally.  When we're done I glance over the work DD6 has finished, call her in to correct anything or explain anything if it's necessary, and then get myself a cup of tea and make everyone play outside for 10 minutes before we do Language Arts.

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My kids have always had something that they did independently.  When they were in K, it was mostly handwriting - once they understood how to follow the arrows that showed the right way to make a letter, I didn't need to sit beside them while they did it.  Different things are independent for different kids each year.  Like, one year one of my kids did their spelling orally while jumping on a trampoline...which was not independent.  Another year, I picked certain parts from a spelling book because I wanted to make sure that they knew certain skills (like alphabetization).  We had a list and they knew that they did that part from their book on Tuesdays, so I let them manage it and I checked it when they were done.  Neither of my kids liked being read to for history or science once they could read, so I had a stack of books for them to look at.  I didn't necessarily care exactly what they did, but I did care that they did something.  Like, when we studied the human body, I'd get little kid books, some 'The way we work'-style books or Usborne books that they might look at just a section of, and I'd pull out the big floor puzzle that had all of the organs on it.  They could do whatever they wanted during that time and then just come tell me about it.  Other things, like music, might involve us all sitting together listening to something. I would also sometimes use workbooks to target specific issues, and those could always be done independently.  Even with things that are interactive, like MCT language arts, the kids might read a page on their own before we talk about it.  

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When I've had two kids who needed me to be side by side with them for math (too young to read the book, or just needed my encouragement), I scheduled it for totally different times.  None of my kids have ever been very proficient at working with another kid in the room, and running back and forth between two rooms sounds stressful to me. 

My kids all started clamoring for independent work by around 3rd grade or so (about age 9 or 10).  For all except my youngest, they started asking for some subjects to be done on their own around that time.  By 4th grade, they all wanted math on their own especially.  Maybe I'm bad at talking about math with them? I was doing Right Start with my oldest in 4th grade, and she was in tears every day asking me why I had to be telling her the lesson out loud.  We switched to CLE/Christian Light (written to the student in a worktext), and everything was so much better.  She hated listening to an oral math lesson.  With my boys we were doing BA as early on as possible, so there was a natural transition to them reading the comic and the text at the top of the workbook as soon as they were ready comprehension wise.

I can see this is going to be a stretch for my youngest since he is dyslexic/dysgraphic and not a strong reader.  He doesn't really want any help, but if he tries to read it on his own he easily gets confused or gets really exhausted of the writing if he has to do all the writing himself.  It's hard for me just to be an impartial reader/scribe.  😉 If he starts getting frustrated on a beast academy puzzle, what would build his stamina is to work through the frustration, but yet it is hard for me to just sit by while he exclaims he just can't figure it out.  (Usually he CAN get it eventually, but sometimes he gets mad if I give hints too soon).

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20 minutes ago, kirstenhill said:

We switched to CLE/Christian Light (written to the student in a worktext), and everything was so much better.  She hated listening to an oral math lesson.

Yeah, I don't teach math. I start them on their work, and then we do Socratic questioning if they get stuck. I write their work to be accessible but relatively challenging, so they do get stuck, but not all the time and not too badly... well, unless I misjudged, which does happen. 

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3 hours ago, Not_a_Number said:

Yeah, I don't teach math. I start them on their work, and then we do Socratic questioning if they get stuck. I write their work to be accessible but relatively challenging, so they do get stuck, but not all the time and not too badly... well, unless I misjudged, which does happen. 

I don't write the questions for my kids, but other than that our methods sound fairly similar.

I don't teach math. All our resources are written to the student, so they always start out working independently...all our curricula are formatted along the lines of short explanations, a couple examples, and then progressively more difficult practice problems.  My goal is targeting their work at a challenging, yet doable, level. If they are not regularly getting a bit frustrated, it they are typically getting everything correct on the first try, then it is not challenging enough. If they are become downtrodden, confused about previously mastered topics, or consistently anxious and resistant about math (other than Elliot who operated under an entirely different set of rules), then the math may be too difficult.

Pretty consistently I spend less than a quarter of their math time working with them. They come to me when they are confused...and I offer Socratic questions. They come to me with ideas...and I offer a sounding board. They come to me for checking...and I either let them know which problems need more work or talk through difficulties if I think they need more of a nudge.

All of my kids operate off a daily task list, so I never know when they will choose to work on math. I promise them that I will find the time to give them the (mostly) uninterrupted attention they need, but in return they need to understand that that time might not be right when they want it. They are simply accustomed to shifting between tasks...or continuing to work through frustration until I am available.

During school time, there is a well defined "flow chart" for receiving help. If they run into trouble, first they are to go back and reread explanations, directions, and the question at hand if it is a word problem. If they are still confused they are to skip that problem and move on to the next one; often the next one might be just different enough that they will be able to answer it, and that experience will aid them with the previous one. If they find a whole string of problems that confuse them, they should see if I am available to help. If yes, I will troubleshoot immediately. If I am busy with someone else, they should let me know they need to be in the queue, and then they can either move on to a different subject entirely, or see if there is a completely different type of problems in their lesson that they might understand better. When I am available, they should find a convenient pausing point in whatever they are working on and get help while the getting is good because they never know when someone else will commandeer my attention.

It is not a perfect system, but I do think it is pretty close to "real life" and building skills that will be useful in various classrooms, college and the workplace. I know I have spent much of my life bouncing between and juggling various tasks based on the availability of teachers, bosses, classmates, colleagues, friends, resources, etc. Granted, I don't necessarily think it is pedagogically the ideal learning environment...but, then again, there are plenty of instances when a kiddo comes to me seeking help (perhaps before he really needs it), finds that I am not immediately available, and then continues to struggle with the problem on his own just enough to make a breakthrough and solve it himself. So there are positives.

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9 minutes ago, wendyroo said:

I don't write the questions for my kids, but other than that our methods sound fairly similar.

Yes, they do usually 🙂 . 

 

9 minutes ago, wendyroo said:

I don't teach math. All our resources are written to the student, so they always start out working independently...all our curricula are formatted along the lines of short explanations, a couple examples, and then progressively more difficult practice problems.  My goal is targeting their work at a challenging, yet doable, level. If they are not regularly getting a bit frustrated, it they are typically getting everything correct on the first try, then it is not challenging enough. If they are become downtrodden, confused about previously mastered topics, or consistently anxious and resistant about math (other than Elliot who operated under an entirely different set of rules), then the math may be too difficult.

Agreed -- one tries to hit the sweet spot where they are learning things and aren't bored but also aren't overwhelmed. (And that's why we won't use AoPS over here -- I do /not/ want to teach challenging concepts via problems that also spike frustration. That worked for me, because I loved being stuck on puzzles, but my kids don't enjoy that.) 

 

9 minutes ago, wendyroo said:

Pretty consistently I spend less than a quarter of their math time working with them. They come to me when they are confused...and I offer Socratic questions. They come to me with ideas...and I offer a sounding board. They come to me for checking...and I either let them know which problems need more work or talk through difficulties if I think they need more of a nudge.

Yes, sounds very similar. 

 

9 minutes ago, wendyroo said:

All of my kids operate off a daily task list, so I never know when they will choose to work on math. I promise them that I will find the time to give them the (mostly) uninterrupted attention they need, but in return they need to understand that that time might not be right when they want it. They are simply accustomed to shifting between tasks...or continuing to work through frustration until I am available.

I've never used a task list, hmmm -- we've always had a rigid schedule. I wonder if I should try a task list at some point... do you find that this works better than a more regimented day? 

 

9 minutes ago, wendyroo said:

During school time, there is a well defined "flow chart" for receiving help. If they run into trouble, first they are to go back and reread explanations, directions, and the question at hand if it is a word problem. If they are still confused they are to skip that problem and move on to the next one; often the next one might be just different enough that they will be able to answer it, and that experience will aid them with the previous one. If they find a whole string of problems that confuse them, they should see if I am available to help. If yes, I will troubleshoot immediately. If I am busy with someone else, they should let me know they need to be in the queue, and then they can either move on to a different subject entirely, or see if there is a completely different type of problems in their lesson that they might understand better. When I am available, they should find a convenient pausing point in whatever they are working on and get help while the getting is good because they never know when someone else will commandeer my attention.

I should really post such a flow chart for DD8, lol. She mostly gets stuck and then starts asking questions, staring mournfully at me and hoping for answers. When I don't give answers (because I NEVER give answers!), she gets upset, and that makes her less able to think 😕 . 

So really, this is reminding me that being out of the room for part of that interaction will be a GOOD thing. If a child pouts in a room and there's no one to see it, does it really count? 😉 I feel like that would be better for her, frankly. 

 

9 minutes ago, wendyroo said:

It is not a perfect system, but I do think it is pretty close to "real life" and building skills that will be useful in various classrooms, college and the workplace. I know I have spent much of my life bouncing between and juggling various tasks based on the availability of teachers, bosses, classmates, colleagues, friends, resources, etc. Granted, I don't necessarily think it is pedagogically the ideal learning environment...but, then again, there are plenty of instances when a kiddo comes to me seeking help (perhaps before he really needs it), finds that I am not immediately available, and then continues to struggle with the problem on his own just enough to make a breakthrough and solve it himself. So there are positives.

That's a good point and food for thought. 

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40 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

I've never used a task list, hmmm -- we've always had a rigid schedule. I wonder if I should try a task list at some point... do you find that this works better than a more regimented day? 

A rigid schedule would never work for us. Since we started homeschooling, I have always been juggling at least one schooler, one toddler and one baby. It would have been pointless to say that "every day after math comes spelling", because spelling has always been teacher intensive, and I don't want a kiddo to be at a standstill if they finish math and I am in the middle of dealing with a diaper blowout or a toddler tantrum, or nowadays in the middle of helping another child with school.

So instead of trying to stick to a strict order or time schedule, I've just opted for daily (and then eventually weekly) task lists, and mentoring each child until they can be responsible for coordinating and sharing resources to accomplish their tasks (this is still very much a work in progress). They need to find a time to do spelling when I can teach the lesson. They need to find a time to practice piano when the piano is available...in fact, Peter needs to find a time to practice his own piano, and then coordinate with Audrey to find a time to teach her her lesson. They need to find a time to throw in their washer load when the washer is available. And often the kids want to take their breaks together, so they need to coordinate that as well.

Certain patterns emerge in our days - Spencer almost always reads his literature book in the bathroom after breakfast, Addy likes to work on math while I empty the dishwasher so we can "race", Peter tends to watch one of his Great Courses lectures as his ADHD meds wear off and he can't concentrate on anything more intensive, etc - but no two days are exactly the same, and we can flex pretty well (or, at least as well as can be expected with 4 autistic and/or ADHD kiddos) to adapt to Elliot's tantrums, rabbit trails, unexpected setbacks, outsourced deadlines, etc.

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2 minutes ago, wendyroo said:

A rigid schedule would never work for us. Since we started homeschooling, I have always been juggling at least one schooler, one toddler and one baby. It would have been pointless to say that "every day after math comes spelling", because spelling has always been teacher intensive, and I don't want a kiddo to be at a standstill if they finish math and I am in the middle of dealing with a diaper blowout or a toddler tantrum, or nowadays in the middle of helping another child with school.

So instead of trying to stick to a strict order or time schedule, I've just opted for daily (and then eventually weekly) task lists, and mentoring each child until they can be responsible for coordinating and sharing resources to accomplish their tasks (this is still very much a work in progress). They need to find a time to do spelling when I can teach the lesson. They need to find a time to practice piano when the piano is available...in fact, Peter needs to find a time to practice his own piano, and then coordinate with Audrey to find a time to teach her her lesson. They need to find a time to throw in their washer load when the washer is available. And often the kids want to take their breaks together, so they need to coordinate that as well.

Certain patterns emerge in our days - Spencer almost always reads his literature book in the bathroom after breakfast, Addy likes to work on math while I empty the dishwasher so we can "race", Peter tends to watch one of his Great Courses lectures as his ADHD meds wear off and he can't concentrate on anything more intensive, etc - but no two days are exactly the same, and we can flex pretty well (or, at least as well as can be expected with 4 autistic and/or ADHD kiddos) to adapt to Elliot's tantrums, rabbit trails, unexpected setbacks, outsourced deadlines, etc.

Yeah, that sounds pretty different. When DD5 was little and we were doing school, she went to preschool. So we'd have some highly structured time while she was in preschool, and then the rest of the day was much more unstructured. But then when DD8 was in grade 1/2, work didn't even take all that long, so the structured part of the day was quite short. It's still relatively short, honestly... mostly we're doing before noon, and I'd like to keep it that way as long as we can. 

It'd be useful for her to learn how to structure her own time, though... on the other hand, I feel like all the time I spend structuring our days actually makes her more mindful of how one can try to arrange things, since she sees me thinking about how to get things done. Still, I'll need to hand things off to her eventually, and that's useful to think about. 

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1 hour ago, wendyroo said:

I don't write the questions for my kids, but other than that our methods sound fairly similar.

I don't teach math. All our resources are written to the student, so they always start out working independently...all our curricula are formatted along the lines of short explanations, a couple examples, and then progressively more difficult practice problems.

 

I have the same routine. What are the "resources and curricula" you use Wendy? Once in a while I have the imagination to make up my own syllabus about some minuscule topic, but most of the time I crib from Beast Academy.

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5 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

Yeah, that sounds pretty different. When DD5 was little and we were doing school, she went to preschool. So we'd have some highly structured time while she was in preschool, and then the rest of the day was much more unstructured. But then when DD8 was in grade 1/2, work didn't even take all that long, so the structured part of the day was quite short. It's still relatively short, honestly... mostly we're doing before noon, and I'd like to keep it that way as long as we can. 

It'd be useful for her to learn how to structure her own time, though... on the other hand, I feel like all the time I spend structuring our days actually makes her more mindful of how one can try to arrange things, since she sees me thinking about how to get things done. Still, I'll need to hand things off to her eventually, and that's useful to think about. 

I certainly don't hand over all subject arranging cold turkey to young children.

There is a lot of scaffolding, modeling and mentoring that goes on every day. There is also a lot of learning that happens through natural consequences when they inevitably make immature choices.

Spencer will be 8 in July. If he is efficient and focused (HA!!) then he can be done with school by snack time (10:30). That seems just about right to me since he starts working between 7:30 and 8. But, getting done that early isn't a priority to him. He knows that Elliot (due to his therapy schedule) won't be done until around 12:30, and Peter won't be done until a bit after lunch. So, instead, Spencer chooses to spend an extra hour every morning playing the piano above and beyond his lesson and takes frequent 15 minutes breaks with the older boys to play and get out some of the wiggles to help him focus on his work.

That is all well and good, and I think a very healthy balance of academics, exercise, productive activity, socialization and play, until he takes it a bit too far. All the kids' lists are divided according to their perceived difficulty of subjects - we use that to discuss pacing and balance and procrastination. And every so often, the morning gets away from Spencer and he finds himself at lunch time with a couple difficult, non-preferred subjects still to get through. And he doesn't like it. (And I don't like it because I would much rather he was off playing so I could focus on what Peter needs from me.) But I think he learns quite a bit about scheduling and efficiency and self-discipline on those days...far more than he does on days when I keep him on track and make sure he finishes before lunch.

Obviously it wouldn't be good if he were floundering and frustrated everyday, that would indicate to me that I was giving him more freedom then he was ready to handle. But OTOH, if he never had the freedom to make silly choices that he later regretted (or make purposeful choices specifically to align with his own priorities), then that would tell me that maybe I wasn't giving him enough freedom.

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9 minutes ago, wendyroo said:

And every so often, the morning gets away from Spencer and he finds himself at lunch time with a couple difficult, non-preferred subjects still to get through.

I feel like if this happened to DD8, she would just rush through the work and do a bad job, and telling her that she did a bad job and to redo it would set off a hideous power struggle. (In fact, things like this have happened before...) So I'd worry that letting her manage her own time would result in her academics being done less well. 

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29 minutes ago, UHP said:

 

I have the same routine. What are the "resources and curricula" you use Wendy? Once in a while I have the imagination to make up my own syllabus about some minuscule topic, but most of the time I crib from Beast Academy.

We start with Singapore Essentials.

Then they start working through Math Mammoth while concurrently working through all the Star Wars math workbooks, all the 70 Must-Know Word Problems Workbooks, some of the Singapore Process Skills workbooks, and a plethora of fun Scholastic and Balance Bender-type activities.

Toward the end of Math Mammoth they go through Hands on Equations, especially the word problem book, and Zaccaro's Becoming a Problem Solving Genius and Real World Algebra.

After that, Peter went into AOPS Pre-algebra and then some of AOPS Algebra before we bailed on that and finished up with other resources and Alcumus. This year, he has done two math Great Courses (Geometry and Mathematical Visualization) and is finishing up AOPS Counting and Probability and all the geometry topics on Alcumus. Next year he is using Foerster's Algebra 2 with trig.

Elliot has finished Math Mammoth, Hands on Equations and the Zaccaro books. He is 98% ready for algebra (and already has a good handle on about a third of the algebra 1 topics), but I am in a holding pattern with him until I decide if he is going to be in public school in the fall. For the time being we are going to shore up some of his weaker topics and work on his problem solving (and frustration tolerance) with some of the harder problems in Dolciani pre-algebra. If he is home next year, he will be using Foerster's Algebra 1. Obviously if he is in school next year he will be stagnating in topics he learned years ago. 😒

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