Mini Office recently updated

Most homeschoolers work in everyday places around the home and so do not have posters and reference charts displayed on walls like conventional public school classrooms.  That is where a Mini Office comes in as a very handy tool!

A Mini Office is essentially a reference file or folder with all a child’s personal  important information right at hand.  This could be reference charts, handwriting charts, number lines, multiplication tables, vocabulary lists, handy facts and any other useful information. It is a handy way of encouraging children to work independently and to provide the necessary assistance without having to put up visual displays.

Recently I updated both the Junior and Senior Mini Offices. I refreshed the layouts, added new pages and corrected a tiny typo. You can find all my Mini Office downloads here.

Here’s what you can find in the 17-page Junior Mini Office  download ~Mini Office

Mini Office2

  1. Number Line & Number Chart
  2. Ordinal numbers & Fractions
  3. Tally or scores, finger counting signs, Shapes, Colours, Directions
  4. Number words & Roman Clock and Roman numbers
  5. Multiplication Tables
  6. Seasons & Months & Days of the Week
  7. Days of the week & time of the day
  8. Address & Where am I?
  9. Weather symbols and Rainbow New!
  10. Sight Word Walls
  11. Phonic Alphabet New!
  12. Phonic Blends New!
  13. Family Words
  14. Print Handwriting Chart
  15. Cursive Handwriting Chart

The Senior Mini Office is a 20-page download which covers a lot of Mathematics.  All the pages have been refreshed, updated or new pages created ~ Mini Office1

  1. Number Chart
  2. Number words New!
  3. Multiplication Table
  4. Keeping score / Tally, Finger counting, Shapes & Colours
  5. Maths Symbols & their meanings & Compass
  6. Ordinal numbers & Roman Clock & Roman numerals
  7. Telling Time , Clock face, Analogue & Digital Clocks New!
  8. Angles & Fractions Updated!
  9. Different types of fractions & Converting fractions Updated!
  10. Converting Units & Number Systems
  11. Percentages – Decimals – Fractions
  12. Circles – Definition & Formula
  13. 2D Shapes – Description Circumference & Area formula
  14. 3D Shapes – Description Volume & Outer Area formula
  15. Triangles – Definition & Formula
  16. Weather symbols & Wind direction & speed symbol & Celsius/Fahrenheit New!
  17. Cursive Handwriting Chart New!

Pop over to download your new and updated  Mini Office pages!

Blessings, Nadene

Maths Matters – What Works!

Another “What Works!” post ~ 

After tutoring my eldest daughter through her high school maths course all the way to graduation, and now working with my junior high daughter in her maths course and doing middle school maths with my youngest, I know that maths matters … but it also can bring tears and the mutters!

Here’s 12 maths principles that I’ve seen work ~

  1. Maths needs daily exercise – much like having to walk the dog!  My kids do 2 pages of maths exercises every day except for Fridays. We mix it with maths drills, times tables practice or word problems.
  2. Use manipulatives. Maths comprises of abstract concepts. Young children especially need to work with real objects.  When teaching any new concept, start with real objects and teach with examples. Use blocks, Unifix cubes, real measuring jugs and scales, work with tape measures and rulers. Use number lines, pie pieces, apples and oranges.  Whatever works, use it.  Keep trying until you find the “one thing” that clicks with your child.  Let your child practice with these objects. (Pop over to my free Maths pages for these manipulatives.)
  3. Take your time here at the physical level.  Don’t rush.  Make sure the child understands the concept well and is confident before going back to the books.  If your child forgets, revise with manipulatives.  If they get stuck, go back to manipulatives.  This is vital.  Confidence is a huge factor in maths success.
  4. Encourage mental maths muscles.  Train your children to think maths problems. Exercises with number order (what comes before/ after a number), bonds (adding numbers to each other) and times tables are essential.  This follows the manipulative stage. Train them to get the answer quickly.  Speed and confidence here will make the rest of problem solving and other exercises a breeze! (Check through my mental maths pages here.)
  5. Do drills.  Even just 2 minutes of drills (oral, physical fun or mental maths pages) daily will help ‘cement’ the maths skills.  Do this before the maths book work.
  6. Make it physical and fun.  Do fun physical workouts when ordinary drills and manipulatives are not working to combat tears and tantrums. Recite the tables while jumping on a mini trampoline, while skipping with rope, when bouncing a ball, clapping hands, doing hopscotch … it is fun and it stimulates the brain!  Use playing cards and dominoes for fun maths drills and mental maths.
  7. Maintain the course ~ if it works.  Stay on the same curriculum if it works. Don’t switch around too much.  Each curriculum has been designed to follow concepts. Some conceptually spiral, each year developing the concepts to the next level.  Jumping from curriculum to curriculum may cause your child to stumble across ‘new’ concepts without having the introductory work.  Many moms I know have shelves of maths books and courses and still haven’t found a good ‘fit’.  May I suggest that you choose the best of the lot and supplement here and there with other exercises or examples.
  8. Tutor high school maths.  If you or dad can tutor, great. It worked for me and my daughter.  If not, find a friend, student, retired teacher or professional tutor to help your child.  This is especially important with high school maths.  Don’t let maths tantrums and upsets cause you to ditch homeschooling!  Often a 3rd party person makes a huge difference in a teenager’s attitude. The student must report regularly to the tutor and be accountable for the work they understand and the concepts that they struggle with.  Often tutors are great for pre-exam revision.  The tutor can prepare the student for the type of work to focus on and the questions to practice.
  9. Practise the skills.  Many maths books give an example, lay out brief explanations and then go on to the exercises.  Generally most students need to practice with the introductory examples several times to completely understand the new concepts.  When the child starts a maths problem, they have some doubts and questions.  When they manage the examples and the initial, easy problems, they gain confidence.  But they need to establish this process with a few more similar problems before moving on to more difficult sums.  Where maths books progress too quickly, or provide too few similar problems, children lose confidence.  If they haven’t “got it” with the easy work and then struggle with more complex problems, they become afraid.  Fear forms into frustration which then manifests into anger.  Supplement your child’s books with examples or go online to find similar work.
  10. Do maths early, when your child is most awake and fresh.  Maths requires mental fitness and this is most often early in the day. My teens often put off their maths lessons because they didn’t enjoy it much, but when they finally had to do their lessons, they were tired and they struggled more. I advised them to do it first and get it over with for the day.  For young children, maths and handwriting should be done at the table, early in the morning.  We do our seat work (or disciplinary subjects = those 3R’s) first and then go on to read alouds and narrations.
  11. Estimations are essential skills!  Along with mental maths and confidence, the most important maths life skill is to estimate within range.  I only discovered this as an adult, but I find that it is perhaps the most underrated skill at schools.  Teach your children to “guess” quickly and then “prove” their guess.  It is fun, quick and it builds enormous confidence in their maths ability.  This can be done as “living maths”; in the kitchen while cooking and baking, in the garden when laying out vegetable beds and planting seedlings in rows, while cutting material, making dresses or designing woodwork patterns, while packing away toys, doing hobbies and crafts, or travelling on road trips.
  12. Many children will always “hate” maths.  Their brains are just not wired to excel in maths.  However, maths literacy is vital and will greatly improve their independence and confidence in daily life.  Stick to the most reasonable maths program and assist your child to at least master the basics. My artistic, creative daughters have been unhappy about maths for years, but I have not negotiated with them that they drop maths until at least grade 10.  For matric, maths or maths literacy is a compulsory subject and your teen will still need the above skills. Our South African maths literacy course is excellent.  It is real, relevant and within the ability of a ‘non-maths’ student.

I share this all with this background ~ My early childhood years of insecurity with maths made me literally throw up with fear, especially in high school!  Then, when I was a student teacher, I was once assigned to a school’s maths teacher for all the grades 3, 4 and 5 maths classes.  I spent hours and hours on my lesson preparation because I was terrified that I couldn’t teach maths.  It quickly made me realize that the best method to preparation and understanding was lots of “scratching of pencil on paper” and using several different textbooks to see the different approaches to teach the concepts.

A brilliant mathematician does NOT necessarily make a great maths teacher!  In fact, the teacher who may have struggled with maths may make a more compassionate teacher and will know exactly how they learnt the maths skills through practice.

When I tutored my high schoolers, I did the maths work for them (with them sitting watching and listening), then with them, and finally I sat next to them as they worked.  If they were stuck, I would try another approach or break it down differently.  Even though I taught these lessons, I didn’t always have time to prepare before hand, and so the two of us figured it out together.  We battled, struggled, sympathized and encouraged each other as we went along.  It was the one place in their independent studies that we were vitally connected!

Mom, you can teach your child maths!  You just do not need to be a maths whizz!


Add Variety

Variety adds “spice” to life …

and different approaches are good tools to enhanced learning!

This is especially true when a child struggles, stresses or stagnates in learning skills.

Spelling and maths tables, bonds and drills are common problem subjects in many children’s schooling, and despite diligent effort, they may still struggle to master new and difficult skills.

When this happens, look for some new tools or methods and to try to involve as many senses as possible.

Movement is often a great method to apply in Maths.  We use these for tables and bonds or reviews:

  • skip with a rope calling out the skip counting or times tables  
  • jump on a mini trampoline
  • jump up a flight of stairs, one step at a time, if the answer is correct, back if incorrect
  • clap hands as partners to tables

    This is a great idea to add to ‘blank’ trampolines – excellent for directionality and spatial awareness

  • bounce and catch a beach ball – on floor/ against a wall/ with mom or sibling
  • hop on one leg

With spelling, try a variety of objects:

  • Bananagrams
  • Scrabble tiles
  • magnetic letters on the fridge
  • white board
  • trace in flour/ rice/ small lentils on a tray
  • trace letters on a sealed Ziploc bag filled with colored pudding (and enjoy eating it afterwards)
  • play-dough letters
  • foam letters – print out spelling
  • physically forming the letter shape with their body and a rope or stick.

Review or re-wind previous lessons with a different approach.

Use arrows, directions and obstacle courses, play “Twister” to amplify Geography skills.

When your child starts school after a long break, try  a physical, musical workout and make it energetic fun.

Music, songs and rap are excellent for spelling or learning off by heart.  Add some cool moves which amplify meaning to add to the impact of the learning experience. My kids still remember their Geography Songs CD!

Do school in a different room or place or in a  new environment. Sit under the table, stand on the table, go outside, or lie on the floor.  Try to learn in a darkened room and encourage the child to print “mental visual images” in their minds.

Despite variety being fun, it activates different centers in the brain and facilitates neural links and connections.

When a child really continues to struggle, I  encourage you to take you child to an occupational or remedial therapist.  Apart from correctly assessing where the problem may lie, they have a massive repertoire of games, activities and approaches which you can use at home.  They have mastered the art of using games to teach and reinforce skills.

Lastly, although iPad and Smartphone apps and computer games promote interactive learning, research has shown that screens and flashing imagery does not necessarily enhance learning as much as real life, physical, sensory experiences do.

Teach new skills in new ways to add to the impact of the lesson. Find your child’s learning style and work that into your teaching style.

Laugh and have fun.

What novel ways have you used to teach or reinforce lessons?  Please share with other readers in the comments.