Archive for the ‘teaching kids’ Category

Note: a shorter version of this post will be published in the September 2009 issue of the Southwest Homeschool Network newsletter

“My son has trouble with division,” a young mom told me once. “I think it’s because he hasn’t memorized his multiplication facts.”

She explained that her child had figured out his own method for getting the right answers to multiplication problems. He just kept adding the multiplied number mentally until he had added it enough times for a correct answer. His multiplication method was slow, but it gave him right answers. Division had him stumped though. He couldn’t figure out the problems.

Although it may not appear that way, this boy’s trouble with division was the same problem that 5-year-old Elias had with addition the day I asked him, “How many places should we set for lunch today?”

First Elias counted himself and me. Then we talked about the other people who would be eating lunch with us – my husband (who was working in the garage), Grandma (who lived in a mobile home on the back of our lot), and Daniel (who was asleep in the loft). This talking wasn’t enough. Elias still couldn’t figure out how many places to set. If all five people had been there in the room, he could have easily figured out the answer by counting them. But since he couldn’t see the people, he couldn’t count them.

I tried to help him by showing him how to count people in his head, using my fingers to represent each person : “You (thumb), me (index finger), Dennis (middle finger), Grandma (ring finger), Daniel (pinkie) – one-two-three-four-five – see?”

His face went completely blank. Obviously, to Elias, a finger did not represent a person. He could not count people by counting fingers.

This is a developmental characteristic. (more…)


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The Southwest Homeschool Network asked me to give a presentation for parents of Reluctant Readers for their conference last weekend. I don’t live with a reluctant reader anymore (he turned into a book-lover, grew up and left home) so I am lucky to have one who comes and visits me to remind me all about it. J is a first-generation American 12-year-old from a Spanish-speaking home, and he recently had to make the switch from a bilingual program at school to all-English. He told me once how discouraged he felt with it, so I said he could come once a week and we’d see what we could do.

J spent the whole evening here last Wednesday. A lot of that time didn’t seem to have a thing to do with reading, but as I recalled that evening in the light of preparing for my presentation, really it ALL had a lot to do with reading. For example, when J’s mom drove him to my house, she had most of the family with her – four kids and her 80-year-old father. She and her teenage daughter needed to talk to me in the kitchen, so Grandpa stretched out on the grass under the mulberry tree in the front yard, and J ran off to the back yard with his two little sisters. There they found our granddaughters’ abandoned makeshift sandbox, their plastic containers, and a bucket of water. So they made a fancy cake out of wet sand in one of the plastic containers. They smoothed it and decorated it with pinecones – very artistic. And then of course, they had to show it to me when I finished talking to their mom. And of course, we conversed about it.

That’s where the first reading connection came in. (more…)

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