Monday, April 25, 2011


I don't know if you experience this, too, but it seems that when you become aware of something new, you begin to see reminders of it EVERYWHERE!  For instance, you've recently peed on a stick and two blue lines appear in the little window (oh my!); from that moment forward everything and anything remotely related to pregnancy catches your eye, including all the pregnant animals at the zoo.  Pregnant people or babies pop out of every nook and cranny, you glance up just in time to see a baby jogger rolling by in front of a huffing mama, the color pink suddenly becomes's just a phenomenon that I've noticed with all sorts of topics!  If I'm interested in a Subaru, I start to notice them all over the road in all manner of colors and styles.  Prior to that I never paid them any heed.  It's like your brain throws a switch and you suddenly see!  Does this ever happen to you?  I think it's weird.  Not saying I'm pregnant!  That's merely an example to get my point across.  Really. 

What I am becoming more and more aware of lately is information and materials to help teach a bouncing kinesthetic learner all sorts of things from world history to math to writing and more.  You know you have a kinesthetic learner if he or she has a hard time sitting still with pen in hand.  While helping him sort out the directions to an assignment your happy little kinesthetic child vaults from his chair to "go get something".  He returns a moment later with his rubber sword and a cape, stuff he says he needs to complete the assignment that you have so diligently planned out the night before.  You had intended that he'd sit at the table quietly and his little hand would craftily wield the pen, creating a mighty hand-written story replete with stunning character development, witty verbal exchanges, titillating plot sequences and a nicely wrapped up moral lesson that executes itself exquisitely in the last sentence.

Instead, your brave little swordsman leaps into action to slay the invisible dragons in the living room, the ones belching fire from behind the couch, the ones that apparently you can't see, but they are going to set the curtains on fire any second.  He insists that the house must be saved and he is the only one to do it!  You are left standing next to the table holding the pen, a bit bewildered about how he slipped out of the writing assignment.  Again.

Well, you have a couple of options.  You could grab your laptop and join your little knight in the living room and ask him to narrate his story, capturing his skill and prowess while faced with a fire-breathing beast surely set to gobble him up at any second.  You could video tape his play and have him watch it later while he narrates what happened.  You could also let him play out his dragon theme for awhile and then call him back to the table to play a very fun game called Create-A-Story!

I think I need this game or I need to design one like it and use it.  Max hates to write and he's clever at coming up with ways to avoid it.  During game play players work their way around the board and pick up story cards that provide the characters, plot, dialogue, moral or lesson, problem, resolution, ending, etc.  Then you use the handy outlines that are provided to help organize your very silly story and make it work.  It seems that humor surely comes in handy during this game, of course.  At the end of the game, the child writes out his story and hopefully it wasn't too agonizing for him to do so!

Stuff like this is popping up all over my radar screen, which is great.  I obviously need to pay attention and to continue to seek and find.  Maybe you've got a little dragon-slayer lurking in your household, too?  Let him wear his cape, brandish his sword  and try games like Create-A-Story to help make the learning stuff fun and more aligned to his style.  It might just be the best thing ever!

NOTE AT A LATER DATE:  I ended up purchasing this board game and we've had it out to play it.  Fun!  Challenging, too.  We giggled several times as we drew our characters and descriptors and tried to fit them together in our outlines.  Getting Max to do the outline was easy and I saw him think through several possible scenarios.  He wasn't so excited, however, to figure out what happens first, second and third and how to pull it all together into a story, so I wrote the first one.  He loved it - it was about a mummy getting to meet the president at an amusement park on the hottest day of the century.  We'll continue to work with this game; the important thing is that he gets a feel for elements in a story and how to tie them together.  It's tricky sometimes to wrap up a story neatly with the resolution and lesson!  Fun game, though.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Was pointed in the direction of a pretty cool math curriculum yesterday that may be a good fit for Max.  We'll see.  I researched it a little more today and like what I see so far.  Currently we're using a mix of Key Curriculum Press workbooks for fractions, Life of Fred for fun, and some Math Mammoth for clarity, along with some clever Nerf math and other games.  Max likes Life of Fred the best, at least the story (the story is beyond fabulous - I've read ahead several chapters just to find out what happens), but he doesn't much care for doing the practice problems at the end of each chapter.  He'd rather gloss right over those puppies.

Gradually I've learned that he benefits best from a mastery approach, versus a spiral approach.  Sometimes I think we underestimate just how much we have to practice something to really have a grasp, at least a working grasp that we can carry with us to the next concept, right?  And sometimes getting a grasp on a new concept isn't all that straight forward because the leap from where you are currently to where you need to be is much too large.

Enter a program called JUMP Math.  I read an article in the New York Times about it.  Here's the link to the article:

Kind of unique because this program is primarily used in the UK and in Canada; I haven't taken the time to correlate their standards to ours, and if you've been hanging around my blog long enough, you probably already know that I don't pay that much attention to standards, anyway.  Manmade gobbledy gook in some cases.

What's really different about this program is that it breaks down concepts in math into micro steps; tiny little incremental jumps (ahhh - the link to the curriculum's name!) that allows a child to experience success and build confidence in doing math.  It also puts a different spin on math problems and helps a child to "see" what is asked for in the problem.

Jump Math, at least in Canada and the UK, has been successful in doing away with the bell-shaped curve in classrooms.  Teachers who have implemented this special curriculum have been able to bring ALL of their students up to the 90+ percentile.  No child is left in the dust to fend for him or herself!  Kids that were labeled as slow learners have gone on to compete in math competitions and have done great!  That's what strikes me about JUMP - it believes in the child until the child is able to believe in him or herself.  Cool!

The program's originator, John Mighton, believes that all children can acquire math skills all the way up through the university level and flourish while they are at it.  Here is what the website quotes:

JUMP Math believes that all children can be led to think mathematically, and that with even a modest amount of attention every child will flourish. By demonstrating that even children who are failing math or who are labeled as slow learners can excel at math, we hope to dispel the myths that currently prevail. We offer educators and parents complete and balanced materials as well as training to help them reach all students. 
I've looked over the sample worksheets, the introductory program on fractions, and some testimonials so far.  Good to this point.  Still want to dig a little deeper.  The introductory program on fractions is available as a pdf on their website, free of charge, so it wouldn't be a problem to at least try JUMP at home. 

Here's a link to their website:  JUMP Math 
JUMP math even has a YouTube channel!  Might be worth a peek.  I bet the article in the NY Times will help boost their exposure and that's probably a great thing for kids!  Check it out if you're curious.   

Friday, April 8, 2011

Now I Know by Dan Lewis

For the past few months I've been receiving daily emails from Dan Lewis.  I don't personally know Dan, but I have to say that I enjoy his emails.  He is an historian sleuth of sorts who finds interesting information, repackages it into a short little essay and sends it on its merry way right to your inbox!  We occasionally will use some of his information in our history lessons; he has the knack of pulling all of the quirkiness from history and presenting it in an engaging fashion.  Stuff you never knew or bothered to think about!  Like purple carrots (you'll need to read that essay to figure that out).

Not many people know about him just yet - he has around 3,000 subscribers.  He would like to expand his audience and perhaps homeschoolers are good folks to target!  Because we have a tendency to want to learn the stuff he offers, so it could be win-win, don't you think?

If you'd like more information or would consider subscribing to his daily emails, here's the link:

Dan Lewis:  Now I Know

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My Krazy Kinesthetic Learner

We did something rather unconventional today.  Um, really unconventional.  Before you read any further, I'll tell you right from the start that Nerf guns and foam darts were involved!  Don't read anymore if you object to Nerf guns (and I completely understand if you do.  For a very long time I was anti-any-type-of-gun.  Makes for an interesting mom when you are raising a boy who seems to have a built-in trigger reflex.)  Want to keep reading?

We decided to mix Nerf wars with math this morning and it was a big hit.  I'm happy to report that ONLY index cards were harmed in our endeavor!  As I'm learning more and more about the movers and shakers who inhabit the world, or those who learn best through movement, I realize that I need to stretch my own brain further over the edges of the box which I've apparently been living in for the last 40+ years.  My box is of an entirely different composition and shape than Max's box, and sometimes I just have to haul myself out of my own worldview to get a better handle on his.  I live in a box filled with workbooks, orderly concepts (most of the time), spreadsheets, lots of words, lots of visuals, lots of stuff for my eyes to behold and take in.  Max can hardly stay contained in his box because he's jumping, performing, twisting and turning, tumbling his way out of it.  If I try to have him do some school work my way, I see my avid little mover wilt at the shoulders and hear him offer up a heavy sigh.  We are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to preferred styles of learning, so I'm learning how to help Max learn best!  That's a lot of learning to undertake, isn't it?  Learning about learning.

In the past few posts I've mentioned that we've recently completed some learning assessments to try to better address all of this multi-intelligence business.  And based on those results, I am coming to grips with me needing to change a few things around here for Max's sake.   I, (sniff), am having to loosen my white knuckle grip on any and all workbooks I may have been harboring for a future date.  I am having to let go of the pen and paper mantra that has carried me through my own life.  I am trying to keep my chin up and look for novel ideas to keep him stimulated!

Today I planned to take another run at the multiplication facts and noticed Max stalking about the house with his Nerf gun strapped to his side, looking for imaginary bad guys (apparently they lurk in corners and hide behind doors and under tables - who knew?  I'm oblivious to them.)  I had just finished making up some index cards with the 4's, 6's and 7's facts written on them in brightly colored sharpie.  My intention was to have him manipulate the cards on a big table, match them up and make a quick game out of it.  We started that way, but Max came up with a different version that suited him much better.  I stood next to the table and flashed an index card with a multiplication problem on it.  He jumped up on one of the kitchen chairs and shot a Nerf foam dart, trying to hit the card with the answer on it.  After he hit his target he said the fact out loud.  Next time we'll tape the answers to a wall and let him take aim!  He said, "Mom, I'm doing math!"  and laughed because it just didn't feel much like math.  I had never thought of putting together Nerf foam darts, math facts and index cards, but it worked!

We've also gone to the basketball court at the community center using 8 1/2 x 11 inch pieces of paper with the facts written on them, placed on the floor.  He picks a problem, bounces the ball on it a few times, states the answer and tries to make a basket.  He seems to really enjoy these diversions from the other ways we work on math.  A ping pong table could come into play, too.  Trampolines, jump ropes, pogo sticks, baseball  We could really stay in shape this way!  Exercise Math.  Hmm.

Not that he HAS to be completely solid on his math facts at this juncture; I've posted about my anxieties related to this before.  We are working on fractions, multiplying and dividing, and I see him become easily frustrated if he doesn't have the simple math fact at the tip of his brain.  Then he gets distracted and loses interest.  I figure if we keep doing fun games like Nerf Math, he'll be less frustrated as he finds he's able to apply the information and make the "other" math less cumbersome.

If you have a similar kiddo bouncing about the walls of your house, I encourage you to implement some of these ideas or other movement ideas that resonate with him or her.  I'm coming at this from a boy angle and he has a trigger finger, so the Nerf idea kind of fell into place today.  We'll review tomorrow and see how much he retained from today so we can keep working on those pesky fractions!

****A FEW DAYS LATER.........we did the Nerf gun thing again today, but this time I taped the answers up on the wall and we pretended that Max was the sheriff.  "This town ain't big enough for the both of us, 4x6.  It's time you, Mr. 24, went to live elsewhere!"  "Number 56 (8x7), you are the baddest of the b..a..d.  I've had enough of your shenanigans.  I'm going to git my deputy and we'll be back to round you up and escort you and your posse of 8's out of this here town!"  We had a good time playing up the voices and pretending we were clearin' the town of rowdy no-gooders.  Too fun.

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