Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Is this graph misleading?

If you didn't come here from this page, please go there first!
The answer is below this graph.Click on image to make graph larger.

The first thing you should notice is that the number for 1980 is 153, and the number for 2010 is 51.6, which is a 66% drop (as stated in the text above the graph). You know that 66% is a little more than 50%, so the bar for 2010 should be a little more than 50% shorter than the bar for 1980.

If you literally measure on the screen, you actually get about a 95% drop by only looking at the bars. The image does not match up with the data.

But how did this happen? I will put the answer underneath this in white text. Highlight it if you want to see the answer or some hints first!
Hint: Look at the numbers going vertically on the left hand side. Could they have been spaced differently?
Hint: Look at the starting number.
Hint: What would make the two bars closer to the 66% difference?
Answer: The number in the corner starts at 40, and then it jumps by 20 each time. Imagine if that number were 50 instead. It would look like SIDS rates were 0 in 2010, wouldn't it? What number should be in the corner?

If you want to try different ideas to see how they affect a graph's appearance, here is a great page!
Just take some of the stats off this graph, or even just the largest and smallest and see what you can change to affect the bars and make them match the data.

Keep this in mind if you should ever need to create your own graph for a project!

Statistics Should Be Required

The most useful college class I took was statistics, and I still find it useful. Here is a great exercise for your kids! Is this graph misleading in any way? See what they think. I'll just leave this here and if someone has questions, just ask! This skill is SO important given that almost all information is often presented in graph form (often to mislead). I'm sure you've seen this repeatedly in regards to politics. Click on image to see larger.

If you can't figure out how this graph is misleading, or you want to know if it even is, here is the answer!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Spend Time With Your Kids

It's been over two years since I've posted to this blog. As a single mom doing 100% of this parenting thing on my own, I've gotten a little too busy at times, and my kids have grown up right before my eyes! They are now almost 15 and 16 years old, and I've only got a few years left to spend with them as "children." The reason I'm posting today is because of the people who don't appreciate that importance.

I have been *triggered.*

Today in a facebook group which may as well be called "Selfish Leftist Single Moms" because I think there might be three conservatives in it, a woman posted asking how she can find rides for her children after school to her boyfriend's house because she and her boyfriend have been talking about how they can spend more time together.


As if it's not bad enough that marriages are falling apart, we have parents who are too busy pursuing their own relationships to even drive their own kids to be stuck at the dude's house! How about figuring out how you can spend more quality time with the kids? How about figuring out what activities they might want to do after school, or do those activities with them? If you aren't seeing your kids all day because they are in school, WHAT are you doing as a parent?

It is one thing if you have to work two jobs to pay the bills. It is completely another to take time away from your own kids for some random dude, or to put your relationship before your kids. I don't even care if they like him. Chances are, the relationship won't last. It will be another man who came in and out of their lives, all the while they have been raised by the schools and the internet, because they have no bond with their primary parent. Kids have gone from spending the majority of their days with family, to the majority of their days being away from their family, or ignored because of technological advances such as iPhones, internet, and Netflix.

I've seen parents lost in their own phones at restaurants. If you want to know what's wrong with kids today, use that phone to look it up! They are being pushed aside, ignored, replaced, and expected to suck it up when they are neglected because Mom or Dad wants to put themselves first (which seems to happen a lot these days). Of course on the other end of the spectrum there are kids who rule the roost at their homes and are given everything their little hearts' desire, and that's another post for another day.

Spend time with your kids.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Do Homeschoolers Need Letter Grades?

When my kids attended public school for a year, the concept of "grades" was new to them. They were only in third and fourth grades, but had never experienced the quarterly grades or "report cards" that public school families use to measure what has been learned.

Even as I type that, "what has been learned," I slightly cringe. It's assumed that if a student has straight A's that they have "learned" everything expected of him. But the truth is, all it means is that the student has simply completed everything expected of him, which has nothing to do with what he has actually learned.

If you look at grades, they are often weighted by participation, whether it is getting homework done, participating in a group project, or sometimes simply showing up. As a matter of fact, they are so subjective sometimes, they are not worth much to anyone. When I was a para for special education students, looking at report cards from one student to another told you nothing about what those students learned. One really smart kid could have a worse report card than another "low IQ" student who could barely read, simply because the requirements for each were different.

What is the point of grades? Well, really, isn't it to make the parents feel good? To let them know that their kid is doing what's expected of him? That's about it, really.

The question remains, do homeschoolers need letter grades? The true answer is...it depends.

Most homeschoolers work on a subject until the information is learned. If a test is given, we know if the student learned anything, or how much he learned. If the test reveals "not much learned" then we can repeat what should have been learned and go about it a different way. We hardly ever test. As a matter of fact, science is the only subject we test, and not until 7th grade. Because we test in science, we "could" have a letter grade for the course. But as of right now, we aren't keeping up with it. For homeschoolers who don't "do tests" of course they aren't going to have letter grades, unless they want to throw up a subjective grade based on the kids' overall performance.

Letter grades are often given once a homeschooler reaches high school courses, so that a more "official" transcript can be kept. Also, this is a good transition to grades they will receive in college. There is nothing wrong with reminding kids how their work will be evaluated by college professors and making sure they know that every test they take will count toward one letter in the end. They need to know this. I've been saying it since about 7th grade.

Another reason to give letter grades is for children who are non-compliant. My children participate in many extra-curricular activities. If I feel they are not meeting standards, keeping grades is a good way to measure this, for both me and them. I haven't done it yet, but I have stated something similar to, "Right now you are doing C work, which is not good enough for you." But I haven't felt it necessary to REALLY keep track and hang that letter over their heads. Mostly this is because if they don't meet standards, we have ALLLLL summer to get work done ;)

The difference between home school and "other" school is this: At home, we can study something until it is learned. At school, we have a small window to learn something before the class has to move on, and hopefully we were "on" that day and didn't miss the opportunity. THIS is why homeschooled kids tend to be better educated at the end of 12 years of learning. However either is graded, the reality is that homeschoolers have the opportunity to take more time when necessary, and "other" schooled don't. Whether you throw a grade at their work or not, learning is happening.

No, we don't "need" letter grades. Sometimes there is a benefit, but most times there is not. The good thing is, we can make that decision for each child. One of the many benefits of homeschooling...

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

How to Teach Math

If I had to give this post a subtitle, it would be... "And Why the Schools Do It Wrong." It isn't because the teachers are bad (just as homeschooling parents aren't bad teachers), but it's the way things are done. The "system" doesn't work.

For example... Typically a kid learns a new concept in class, and is then sent home with practice problems to work. If he did every single problem wrong at home, he won't find out until the next day (if he's lucky), right before the teacher moves on to the next concept. This makes no sense.

The reason one on one education is superior to classroom teaching is because the teacher is available for immediate feedback. If a child doesn't do something correctly or misunderstands a concept, the teacher sees it, corrects it, and the child is back on the path. Well, usually...

Because a lot of parents use the same school system to teach their kids at home, their kids are not benefiting from the one one one instruction in the best way. If your child is doing 20 problems on his own and then you are grading it later, you have just wasted your child's time if he didn't work the problems correctly. And he has just re-enforced the incorrect method to solve the problems. I actually figured this out through working with my own kids. For one full year, I worked with both of my kids every day, with every problem. If they had 20 problems to work, we did them on the white board together. So if they got stumped, I was there to guide their thinking correctly. They were never able to "think wrong" and think they were right. I was able to stop and re-teach a concept if necessary, or explain it in a different way.

When my kids hit 6th and 7th grades, I decided to give Teaching Textbooks (TT) a try. I love teaching math, but it was getting overwhelming. The TT method works really well. They learn a concept, and then do some practice problems (as well as review problems). If they miss the practice problem, they know right away. Additionally, they can click a button to learn how to work a problem correctly. I love this.

If you use a different curriculum but have a lot of kids and not enough time, an alternative is to allow your kids to have the answers to their problems so they can self check as they go. You can't do this with younger kids, but you will know when your kid has reached the age where this will work.

The way to teach math is by providing immediate feedback, one problem at a time. Whether you do it, or the computer does it, or the answer sheet does it, a kid needs to know if he's on the right track WHILE he's on it. Following a system at home that doesn't work for the public schools is probably creating unnecessary frustration in your home.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Hydrogen Peroxide Can Do That?

You probably already know a couple of good uses for hydrogen peroxide ("peroxide"), and there is a list going around with a plethora of uses for it. But I don't think these two are spoken for yet. I use peroxide for EVERYTHING, so it's my go-to product when germs or bacteria might be causing issues.

When I washed off my vacuum cleaner filter recently, I noticed it had a mildew smell once it dried. I couldn't just pop it back in, so I decided to see what would happen if I squirted some peroxide on it. All I can say is "Eeeeewww." It BUBBLED like crazy. And it bubbled out caked on dust that I thought I had rinsed off! I let it bubble out, rinsed, and then doused it with peroxide again and rinsed. When dry, the smell was gone. GONE! I couldn't believe it. I mean, I'm not sure why because I use it all the time, but it still amazes me.

I also use peroxide for my flip flops when they get stinky. So when my son's entire room made me gag because of the stench of his soccer shoes and shin guards, I got out my handy dandy bottle of peroxide. I removed his shoe liners and doused them in peroxide. No kidding, they practically started bubbling before it hit them. I think they even smoked. I squirted some on the inside as well, which bubbled, but not as drastically. The shin guards came out smelling like new, but the inside of the shoes will need more treatments than we have time for right now. Going forward, I will make a habit of removing the liners after practice and treating them once a week with peroxide. I will be spraying them with a concoction of essential oils as well.
Anyway, just thought I would share these two tips because I know it will help keep your house and shoes germ-free. Of course you can clean with peroxide as well. I regularly soak my sponges with it. It is SO cheap, and such a great staple to keep on hand for its many practical uses. Oh yeah, it can be used for boo-boos as well! ;)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Common Core Propaganda

Today in my facebook feed, there were FIVE references (so far) to this same "Common Core" video. Attached were numerous (sometimes thousands!) of comments about how Common Core math is dumbing down our kids, how this method is stupid, how people can't believe our kids are being taught this, etc. The funny thing is, all these "Common Core" math concept videos are just showing what kids have been learning for AGES and it's sad that parents have had no clue what their kids have been taught.

Before I go further and lose all my anti Common Core folks, I *am* against Common Core, simply for the fact that it is 100% about federal control of our schools. Even if they included in Common Core curriculum everything I agree with (didn't happen BEFORE Common Core, probably isn't happening now), I would be against federal control of our schools. I am against a federal agency tracking my children and keeping records of everything they say, do, or believe from the day they set foot in a school. Additionally, even if I agreed with everything included in the Common Core curriculum, what about when they change something? Am I supposed to believe that someone who doesn't even live in the same community knows what's best for my children?

That said, I believe the videos and pictures going around against "Common Core" are doing us all a disservice. First, they are improperly blaming Common Core for methods that have been used for years. Common Core did not invent any new way of doing anything! It simply took methods of teaching concepts that were already being used. Second, they are distracting us from the real problem, which I stated above, the federal takeover of schools. Here is the video that is making its rounds this week:

Now... most of the comments against this method are, "Why can't our poor, coddled kids just learn to memorize the facts like we had to?!" This is just a plain ignorant statement. As I've stated before in another post, people want to be so against Common Core, they don't really even pay attention to what's going on in the math, or they immediately "don't understand it." Either I'm just WAY better at math than most Americans, or having a teaching degree and learning numerous methods of teaching math allows me to see what they do not.

The method in the video has been around for ages. While that problem in particular is simple, use the same concept for a harder problem and it allows kids (and adults) to do mental math without writing anything down. For instance, if you need to add 59 + 13, can you see how looking at it like 60 + 12 is much easier to solve in your head? You would be using the same concept as in the video. Of course, anytime you first teach a new concept you use simple numbers like 9 + 6. And to the people who have said, (and I can't believe they did), "Well after they wrote all that down, I've already come up with the answer because I've memorized the fact," you are missing the point. This is not taught so that kids don't have to memorize "the nines." It's taught so they can do these things in their heads and NOT write anything down. Writing it down is how the method is taught, which is pretty useful for the visual learners, eh?

This video was clearly on a news program and is going viral on facebook. This makes me realize that it's possible that these "examples of Common Core" are now being used to make us forget what really IS wrong with Common Core. It's a sort of propaganda...a smoke screen if you will. Also known as a red herring, or wild goose chase. Don't fall for this. Don't start thinking that if we just remove a few "crazy math" teaching methods, Common Core will be okay. It's also bringing out all the parents whose kids were already attending failing public schools, as if Common Core is the reason they are failing (remember "No Child Left Behind"?)! Schools were already dumbing down our kids before Common Core, and NOW they have a problem. I guess that's a good thing. Nothing wrong with being more aware, but don't prove that your own school dumbed you down by falling for the wrong reasons.

As a side note, I have noticed that my Libertarian friends see the real issue with Common Core, my Republican friends share "I can't believe this new Common Core math!" memes to the point they go viral, and Democrats are largely silent. I'm going to leave you with that and let you think about it a minute.

Is it really about our kids, or politics?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Problem with Wells Fargo

I bought a house in April and as soon as I saw how much I was going to be paying in PMI, I decided I would NEVER make my payment on the first...you know, how I'd done it for...my whole adult life. I figured if "they" were going to charge me so much for absolutely nothing that would benefit me, then I would hold onto my money until the very last second. My first month or so was a transition to Wells Fargo from the original lender, so I had a month of peace. Once they got everything settled, they started calling when they didn't get their payment on the first of the month. I paid attention this month, and they started calling -NO JOKE- on August 8th. I answered the phone finally, not realizing who had been calling repeatedly. At first I almost threw up, because when he was "attempting to collect a debt" I thought, "OMG it's September already and I didn't pay the mortgage in August!" I even asked him, "It's still August, right?"

When I realized *I* was not the crazy one, I informed him, "I told the last people that called that you guys don't need to call me. I'm ALWAYS going to pay by the 15th and you don't need to call me to find out when."

But that wasn't good enough. Since I didn't make a payment on the phone right then, they kept calling me. Over and over and over again. They are now in my phone as "Wells Fargo Idiots." Seriously. I made the payment on August 14.

So imagine my surprise when I opened up some mail I got from them a few days ago. Check this out.

The date on the letter? AUGUST 8. They sent this letter in regards to August's payment, and it was literally *8* days into the month. This was after the guy recognized I have until the 15th to pay it. And after I told him I was going to keep my money as long as I can, just because I CAN.

What am I missing? Why are they hounding me? Why would they do this to anyone? What a waste of money, time, and resources! All I can say is that if I ever have a choice, I will NOT be doing business with Wells Fargo. Kids, save up your money and pay cash for your first house, because dealing with these nut jobs is just too much!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Trampoline Fun

When we rented a house for three years, my kids knew that the lease stated "no trampolines," so the week after we purchased a house this past May, I bet you can guess what they started begging for! They wanted the trampoline before we moved into the rental, but I wasn't about to purchase one that I had to move, so they had probably been wanting one for 4-5 years! We had already raised the money through consignment sale proceeds, so it was just a matter of getting to it. We are now proud owners of a 15' Skywalker trampoline like this one:
My kids are 11 and 13 now, and you might think after a few weeks they would be bored with it already. However, even though it has been amazingly hot outside, they have continued to jump on it! They are learning skills like front flips and my daughter is working on her cheerleading jumps. It's great exercise and they come inside all sweaty, even when they jump in the cooler temps. My son has had knee problems for the past couple of years, so I'm hoping that the jumping is improving his muscle tone and endurance without straining his knee. He seems to think it's working. His goal is to slam dunk in basketball eventually!
I do think there is something to be said for making children learn patience with things they want. Both of my kids are really busy, and you would think they wouldn't have time for jumping on a trampoline. But they make time for it because they really appreciate having a trampoline FINALLY.
I know a lot of people have gotten hurt on trampolines, but the net on this one is very safe. As you can see in the picture, the covered springs are on the outside of the net. Also, the net really does work as far as "catching" a jumper if he misjudges his landing. I believe it's caught both of my kids' faces so far LOL. We do have it staked down so it doesn't end up in the neighbor's yard. I've heard many horror stories about that as well. If you get a trampoline, please make sure to stake it down!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Smart Kids Who Hate to Write

A few years ago, I heard Dianne Craft speak at our homeschool conference. She answered questions I never really knew I had, and I left equipped to "fix" my kids. My son hated writing. He also had little quirks about him that I just wrote off as "him" and found out he probably had nutritional needs that weren't being met. My daughter had a touch of attention problems, which is really what led me to focus on the Dianne Craft lectures, but once there I realized my son needed more help than she did.

He is a boy, so I never really grew too concerned when his writing was "off," even when his younger sister wrote much earlier and even better than him. Because she's a girl, after all, and wasn't that normal?

You would think I'd run home and start the protocol I'd gotten from the conference, but I didn't. As a matter of fact, it was a full year before I started it, and yes, I'm hanging my head in shame as I type this. It was actually not his writing that prompted me to start the "Writing Eight" exercises. It was basketball. I remembered Mrs. Craft speaking on how these writing exercises were often used by basketball teams to improve ball handling. I noticed that year how a pass would go directly to him, and somehow right THROUGH his hands. It happened about four times in one game. I couldn't believe it, and even though I have it on video, I STILL can't tell you how he missed them. So I knew something was not right.

He started the "Writing Eight" exercises when he started 7th grade. I can't remember how long it took before I noticed the results, but he did them Monday through Friday, for most of the school year. Basketball starts in November, so at most, it was about three months after beginning the program. Even though he was going through a HUGE growth spurt and had problems with his knees, his ability on the court was WELL improved from the seasons prior. I couldn't believe it. His improvement amazed me, but that's not the first thing that happened. In October, for the first time that I know of, he drew these cute little cats on our white board.

I literally don't remember him ever choosing on his own, without it being a requirement, to draw ANYTHING, at least not "publicly." He hated coloring as a child, hated drawing, and he certainly wasn't going around drawing for other people to see! (Yes, that's a dunce cap on his sister's cat...you can't fix everything at once!)

I knew it had to be the Writing Eight exercises. Then when basketball started up, I just knew we were on the right path. He also no longer complains about writing. He is more confident, more secure, and more "centered" if that makes sense. He's more comfortable in his own skin, even though he's in the most insecure time period of his life!

I wanted to share this so that others who don't get to hear Dianne Craft speak can learn about ways of helping their own children. Smart Kids Who Hate to Write is the program she provides to parents. Check it out! I hope it blesses your child like it did mine!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

THIS is Why I Don't Trust My Children's Care to Others

Recently at our local park, I witnessed a group of day camp kids getting ready to go to the pool. There were about ten kids of varying ages, and a camp leader who was slathering sunscreen on kids.

It was not quite summer yet, and it was a cool spring day. It was about 72 degrees and overcast. I mean, it was so cloudy that there was no hope of the sun appearing anytime soon.

So what really concerned me is the thick cloud of sunscreen that lingered while the children sprayed each other down from head to toe, front to back. I wondered how long they would even be IN the pool with it being that cool out, and with the sun nowhere in sight, was the sunscreen even necessary?

I'm not an advocate of sunscreen, anyway, so if you are one of those overbearing parents that likes to lotion up other people's kids, we will have a problem. But this spray, and this cloud the children were breathing in, is not healthy. If you are going to use it, at least use it on a sunny day when the kids will be in the pool for a while!

Consumer Reports warning on spray-on sunscreens

I wonder if my kids would be forced to use this sunscreen or prohibited from participating? I wonder if these children's parents know that this is happening...

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Dance Class or Private Lessons?

I want to preface what I'm about to say with the fact that I am a thrifty kind of mom. I have to be, because I'm a single mom and I'm not rolling in the dough. So anytime I'm going to sign my kids up for something, I have to ask, "Can we afford this?"

Now that my daughter is 11 years old, I can look back on the decisions we made for her dance training and state with some degree of certainty what was a mistake, and what I would have done differently if I knew better.

When she was four, she took her first group class. It was the typical recital where girls on stage had no clue what they were doing, except for every five seconds where they would do their thing and then get lost again. Complete waste of money and time. Thankfully, my daughter didn't want to dance anymore after that, because she really preferred doing her own dances at home anyway. Yay for me!

When she was six, she was a cheerleader for football at our local football league and did SUCH a great job learning the cheers and dances that she decided to start taking a dance and gymnastics class at the same studio she went to at age four. She joined in December, and did great at the spring recital.

The following year, she still wanted to dance, but we chose to drive an hour away for a dance studio at the YMCA. The next year, she tried out for the competition team at the same YMCA and made it! Not only did she make it, but she was one out of two, and the youngest, who was added to the veteran competitors who were more advanced. She was excited. (By this time, we had moved to Wichita, where the competitive team was located!)

Then the "girl crap" started. I probably don't have to elaborate, but I will just say there were some bratty girls in dance class who made dance class a little less fun than it should have been. By Thanksgiving she was ready to quit, and by Nationals, she decided not only was she not going to compete the following year, but she was not going to dance at ALL.

What a difference a year makes! Now, I'm fairly certain that the problem stemmed from the fact that she is homeschooled and has never been programmed to think this girl behavior is okay. It's not that she couldn't deal with it, it's that she didn't see the point. Why spend HOURS with girls every week who are more focused on creating drama than on dancing? I mean, she was there to become a better dancer, but instead, she decided it wasn't worth the trouble.

Now, however, I have figured out the solution. I always thought her dance teachers were adequate. I never had many complaints about that, other than some unneccessary yelling and a little bit of favoritism that a few girls received. The teachers were a little immature, but I never knew (or thought about the fact) that they might be inferior in their instructing. I was not a dancer, so what did I know? In any case, we have found an AMAZING dance teacher who also happens to be a homeschool mom. My daughter has been taking small classes off and on with her for the past year, and she has learned more with her than she ever would have if she had stayed at the other studios. I think this is partly because the teacher is better, but also because the individual attention is MUCH more beneficial to dancers than taking group classes. Why is this?

When she was in group classes, there were so many different levels of ability. If one teacher is teaching ten girls, those ten girls might all be doing something wrong. And more than likely they are all doing something different wrong. How can all those things be corrected in a timely fashion? While larger dance classes are cheaper, how much is a child really being taught, other than how to do the dance that they will be performing at recital?

My daughter has not had a recital in two years, since she quit competitive dance. She has learned more about dance and the correct way to do things, because it was taught and corrected on the spot. She is learning combinations and has focused on ballet, jazz and contemporary, as well as musical theatre, since that's what she loves. In the end, I have saved money, because I'm getting more bang for my buck, as well as not having to pay traveling expenses or costume fees (and not having to buy tap shoes at all!)

If I had to do it over again, I never would have started the typical "cutesy dance class" classes and would have had her take a private or semi-private lesson once a month. Right now, she is planning on learning a solo dance in the fall and considering competing with it. She's always wanted to do solos anyway, so I guess we are where we need to be.

If you find yourself wondering why you send your little one to an hour long dance class every week when you could teach her the same moves at home (use Google!) you are not alone. If you are a homeschool mom and this is her only chance of interacting with other girls, then you may feel differently. This homeschool mom knows not everything works for everyone, and we have options that sometimes come to us a little late. Or was it perfect timing? Hmmmm...

If you live in or near Wichita, KS and would like more information about our dance teacher, just comment below and I will provide it for you. I'm not kidding when I say she's amazing. We will never take from anyone else. My daughter loves her, too, and you can't argue with that.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

NOT Common Core

You've seen this meme on facebook, probably 5-6 times already. Where did it come from? I don't know. All I know is that it's not accurate, and it drives me nuts every time it makes its rounds again.
The math problem is depicted to be a product of Common Core Standards. While I am certainly NOT a fan of Common Core, the labeling is incorrect in this situation. As a matter of fact, nothing can really be blamed on Common Core, because really all it does is pick and choose the teaching methods and concepts which have already been used in the schools. Supposedly, it raises standards for those schools who are "behind," but shouldn't change much for most schools, as far as what is actually being taught.

The math algorithm shown in this picture is called "Counting Up" Subtraction and is part of the Everyday Mathematics curriculum which has been in development since 1983. This is one of the "new math" problems parents have been complaining about for at least a decade. They have other math algorithms that will shock you as well, and you will scratch your head, wondering what was wrong with the "old way"? Which is really funny, because most responses on facebook are by people who can't figure out what's going on in this algorithm, which tells me it's possible that they never developed a good number sense the "old way" so maybe they should give the "new way" a pass and consider that kids might understand numbers better when they are adults.

But since everyone wants to be against Common Core, they see this problem which they think is associated with Common Core and immediately throw up their hands. It's funny how our brains work. I bet if someone said you could have a million dollars if you can explain the algorithm it would take less then two minutes to do so.

Unless Common Core requires ALL schools to use Everyday Mathematics, this algorithm will not even be seen by your students who do not use this curriculum. I have seen numerous math curricula and none of them have these algorithms which are specific to Everyday Math. My kids did attend a school which used this curriculum, so I saw it first hand and can say overall it is an adequate curriculum. It does not force students to pick any certain algorithm for computations, but it does teach numerous ways of solving addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems. Now, those of you demanding that everyone be taught the SAME OLD WAY, think about that when you argue against schools because they don't teach to individuals' learning styles.

Now, do I think Common Core has merits? No. I think it's overreaching of the federal government, which wants even more control over our children's minds. Just another reason to have a Stay At Home Child...

Here's a great video by Julie Borowski about Common Core

Friday, February 14, 2014

Students Who Don't Like Math

I can't even believe I'm writing this. Raised in a family of math geniuses, it is hard to admit that the words, "I hate math!" ever fell from my child's mouth. They did. I was shocked.

When my son was in kindergarten I remember working on math with him and how he would sometimes come to an answer really quickly. He wasn't guessing, but he knew the answer. I asked him how he got the answer and he couldn't tell me. This drove me nuts. I learned in college that children should grow up learning how to communicate about math, and here I was, his kindergarten teacher and I was a total failure! Why couldn't he tell me?!

Now my son is 12 and over the years I've realized that sometimes the "experts" were wrong. While I couldn't figure out my son's methods, I didn't necessarily have to understand it in order to teach him. At this point, he is figuring out the answers much quicker than me. And still, he does a LOT of it in his head.

Usually I heard, "I hate math," when something got a little hard and required extra brain power. Sometimes kids are lazy and just don't want to do math RIGHT NOW. Adults are the same way, aren't we? But what if your kid NEVER likes math? What do you do then?

First, don't ever tell your child that you were bad at or did not like math. They will grow up thinking they will be the same way. If you have already done this, undo it. Get excited about math and act like it's all the rage. If your kid looks at you funny or asks you what's wrong, just say you have discovered how much fun math is and work the problems with him. If you had mediocre math teachers, it's possible that looking at math from your adult perspective will make the work easier to understand. If you are still intimidated by the numbers and calculations, make sure to enlist some help in the math area. There are lots of videos online that can help you both. You don't have to know everything all the time, you just have to have a learning spirit and excitement about working with numbers.

Second, figure out what your child really doesn't like. It could be that he is really struggling with a certain concept. Just because addition was a piece of cake doesn't mean subtraction is going to come easy. Help him climb the obstacles rather than struggle, fall, and give up. Imagine coming to a difficult concept, realizing there are only more difficult concepts behind it in the future. Not fun. Most kids like riddles or puzzles. I've always viewed each math problem as a riddle to figure out. If you are excited, even if your child is struggling, he will plow through if he has your help. The benefit of schooling at home is you can spend as much time as you need to get the concept down. Don't rush it! Let him get comfortable with a concept before jumping to the next "obstacle."

Third, make math fun. Some things are just going to be work, like learning math facts. For this, we use xtramath.org. Try to take something your child enjoys and incorporate it into math. Now that my son is older, we try to see who can come up with the answer first. There are some things I will never beat him on, but other things I can. He gets a kick out of the times he beats me, and works harder to beat me on the others. If you don't have a competitive kid, this won't work. But maybe he is very active and likes jumping on the rebounder, bouncing on a ball, or getting M&Ms. Yes, bribery works, too! You know your kid, figure out what works and make math the most fun subject of the day. If you are really creative, make a treasure hunt, lasting over the course of a week. Each day's assignment provides another clue. Each clue takes him to the next location of the "riddles" to solve, eventually leading to the treasure. I bet he will want to start with math each day!

Your child will learn to like math if you provide the environment that makes math exciting. That doesn't mean that he will be good at it, but it will be easier when he is willing to do the work. Although we have met our own obstacles, I don't think my son will ever say he hates math again. However, we are just in pre-algebra now and I've still got high school to go so I'm not going to hold my breath! Good luck teaching parents, and have fun!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Was Our Country Really Founded by Godly Men?

Today I had the pleasure of viewing the movie, Monumental:  In Search of America's National Treasure, a documentary hosted by Kirk Cameron. I am not writing about this movie, but about the thoughts that resulted from watching it (and also from recently watching the Bill Nye and Ken Ham debate).

Whenever the topic of our founding fathers arises, anti-Christians and atheists are quick to point out that our country was founded by atheists, agnostics, and non-believers, and we just need to “get over it.” Unfortunately, many of us, Christians and atheists alike, have been undereducated about this topic, because the whole truth has been removed from the public school system. So most Christians don’t really know how to respond, even if they have a good idea that they are right.

Monumental covered the Pilgrims and the difficulties they endured coming to America. They were clearly highly religious people, but atheists are quick to point out
1) there were already people settling in America before the Pilgrims arrived,
2) by the time our founding fathers established our country and government system the Pilgrims were long gone, and
3) the Salem Witch Trials, as if that is the ONLY thing the Pilgrims ever did. The Salem Witch Trials, while certainly religiously motivated, are more a testimony for mass hysteria rather than a point to make against Christianity. We have endured many other instances of mass hysteria in our country, but I’ll leave that for another day so I don’t lose you before I even get to my point. Right now, I’m going to focus on point 2.

The assertion that the original Pilgrims were long gone before the establishment of the United States is not incorrect. But the assumption made by that point is that by the time the founding fathers started their work, the country was made up of atheists or, at best, agnostics. I am going to examine nothing other than well known historical documents of our country to show why this assumption is NOT correct, no matter how many atheists tell you it is.

The book Words That Built a Nation by Marilyn Miller includes numerous historical documents and exactly what is stated in them (or parts of them). I will start with the Mayflower Compact, just in case there is any doubt about the Pilgrims’ beliefs. This document is said to be, “the first document of self-government for North America,” by author Marilyn Miller. It states in part,
In the name of God Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyall subjects of our dread soveraigne Lord King James by the grace of God, of great Britaine, France, & Ireland king, defender of the faith, &c.
Having undertaken, for the glorie of God, and advancements of the Christian faith and honour of our king & countrie, a voyage to plant the first colonie in the Northerne parts of Virginia, doe by these presents solemnly & mutualy in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant & combine ourselves togeather into a civill body politick… (I tried to include all their errors, but I may have accidentally corrected some.)
As you can see, they were, as reported originally in history books, a religious group of people.
Let’s move on now to Benjamin Franklin, author (among many other things) of Poor Richard’s Almanack from 1733-1758. Included in his almanac were writings and popular sayings that reflected hard work and common sense. One included in the book was, “God helps them that help themselves.”  Marilyn Miller says about his proverbs, “He borrowed many from popular sayings and the Bible, often rewriting them. More colonists read Poor Richard’s Almanack than any other publication except the Bible.” This demonstrates that not only did Benjamin Franklin read and quote the Bible, the people during his time read the Bible as well!

Next up is Thomas Paine, with his well-known (well, I guess we should say “well mentioned”) pamphlet called Common Sense, published on January 10, 1776. This publication included…
As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensible duty of all government, to protect all conscientious professors thereof, and I know of no other business which government hath to do therewith… For myself, I fully and conscientiously believe, that it is the will of the Almighty, that there should be diversity of religious opinions among us: It affords a larger field for our Christian kindness. Were we all of one way of thinking, our religious dispositions would want matter for probation; and on this liberal principle, I look on the various denominations among us, to be like children of the same family, differing only, in what is called, their Christian names.
Common Sense, which was very popular with colonists, included numerous biblical references apart from the quote provided above. There were WAY too many to list here. I do want to say that the book I am using only showed limited paragraphs of Paine’s fifty page pamphlet. It did include references to God, but it is similar to how students’ textbooks refer to historical documents- not mentioning the authors’ Christian roots or even displaying the entire document.

The next document, the Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson, refers to “the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them….”
It also states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The last paragraph starts, “We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions…” and it closes with, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

The Declaration of Independence was signed by fifty-six colonists who agreed with these sentiments. They were certainly not the words of atheists!

Moving on to 1789, we come to the most controversial document affecting present times, the Bill of Rights. As most people know, the first amendment states in part,“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

This one single statement provides so much controversy for present times, we could debate it for hours. Rather, I should say, atheists could debate it for hours just because they would need that long to exhaust their opponent who knows what this statement intended to mean. This statement is where “we” get “separation of church and state.” Surely by now you know the words “separation of church and state” appear nowhere in our Constitution, Bill of Rights, or any other historical document. They are buzzwords used to confuse the undereducated in our country into believing that God has to be removed from schools, from courts, and from any other public domain. If you put the words into their historical context, the intention was that the colonists would not allow the government to force the people to subscribe to any particular religion as they had endured in England. It was not intended to remove God from our daily lives.

Lastly, let’s look at the Declaration of Sentiments written by women at the Seneca Falls Convention on July 20, 1848. Modeled after the Declaration of Independence, there is similarity in the texts. Here are just a couple of parts of this document:
He allows her in Church as well as State, but a subordinate position, claiming Apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry, and, with some exceptions, from any public participation in the affairs of the Church.
He has usurped the prerogative of Jehovah himself, claiming it as his right to assign for her a sphere of action, when that belongs to her conscience and her God.
This document arising from a meeting a feminists, shows not only that church and God were important to these women, but also that feminists were NOT atheists!

There is a LOT more information regarding the founding fathers, the colonists, and the history of Christianity and God in our country, but I’m only including these texts here. In defense of our religious beginnings, you might hear atheists say, as mentioned earlier, “But what about the Salem Witch Trials?!” Or you might even hear, “The Pilgrims didn’t establish our country, no matter how religious they were.” And when provided with the facts, you might even be slapped with, “What does it matter?!” (Forget the fact that they are usually the ones who bring it up!)

Well, this is only one aspect showing the decline in our country resulting from the decline of our belief in God and the decline of morality. Many of our documents extolled liberty, and the colonists pursued it for themselves and their descendants. Where does one think liberty was born? It came from our Creator and that is what the founding fathers believed and assumed we would continue to believe. As our love of God has been replaced with dependence on government and loss of control of our lives, we are ending up exactly where England was when the Pilgrims found their escape. We are losing our liberty.

We must teach our children both sides of history. God and religion has been removed from secular science and history texts, and it has been done for a reason. I suggest reading Common Sense by Thomas Paine in its entirety and teaching it to your children. Our country was founded by men and women who worshipped God and Jesus Christ. The only question that remains about that is from the people who don’t want to see it. The next time you refer to our Christian roots and are met with an eye roll, I hope that you know how to respond to those doubters!

Tom Woods