Information and Ideas for Teaching Parents

Here we share original articles on topics of interest for home schoolers and for parents and friends of independent learners.

Can you recommend a good geometry textbook?

For those who want a rigorous geometry text with plenty of theory, applications, proofs and problems, Geometry: Seeing, Doing, Understanding is the ideal text book.

For those who aren’t as strong in math, but want to complete a college prep geometry course, the Geometry (University of Chicago School Mathematics Project) is probably a better choice. The University of Chicago materials are written for a broad audience. Each section provides material for students to read on their own. This is followed by questions on the reading and more related problems. Upon opening the book, you will notice at once that there is a lot more writing in these books than in other math texts. It is easy to use and understand. UCSMP Geometry is colorful, full of interesting applications, and covers the required content for a high school course.

For a problem solving approach, be sure to also look at Introduction to Geometry.

How can we start teaching computer programming?

Just as the best way to learn problem solving is to solve lots of problems, the best way to learn computer programming is to write lots of computer programs.

Lego, known for durable, educational and entertaining building sets, has created by far the most captivating introduction to computer programming. With LEGO Mindstorms NXT , your kids will learn the basics of programming as they build robots and program them to carry out specific tasks. Even elementary kids are capable of grasping these basics. Older kids still enjoy it, but build more complicated systems.

When your kids are ready to move beyond programming mindstorms, you must first decide what language is best for them to learn and then what might be the best way for them to learn it.

We’ve used several things.

The college board recommends the more traditional approach of learning the Scheme language as a systematic, rigorous approach to computer programming. We worked partway through How to Design Programs: An Introduction to Programming and Computing but did not finish it.

We rarely use textbooks in teaching other subjects and the same is true of computer programming. We prefer using resources which present programming as useful and fun. We have completed two such books: one for learning Python and one for learning Ruby.

Our oldest son learned Python with Python Programming for the Absolute Beginner; here we wrote simple games with the ideas we learned in each chapter.

Two of our kids are learning Ruby using Learn to Program (Pragmatic Programmers).
Our 11 year old daughter especially enjoys modifying programs and quickly seeing the results of her changes.

What are some good sources of challenging problems?

If you’d like to supplement your curriculum with some challenging problems, there are many resources available.

The TOPS decks for early elementary Techniques of Problem Solving Level 2 to middle school Techniques of Problem Solving Level 8: Deck Bb are a terrific source of problems. See more about these in Top Picks for Home Learners.

For elementary and middle school students Creative Problem Solving in School Mathematics, Revised and Expanded 2nd Edition and Math Olympiad Contest Problems for Elementary and Middle Schools are good choices.

Books such as The Art Of Problem Solving: And Beyond and Introduction to Geometry are appropriate for advanced middle and high school students.

My child needs help memorizing facts

Flash cards, worksheets, and other memorization gadgets quickly drift to the bottom of our toy chest. As a result, I decided not to specifically work on memorizing facts with my four oldest children. Instead, I always make sure they understand the underlying concepts, and then consistently give them problems and other opportunities to apply them.

Before my fourth child learned the multiplication tables, we would laboriously work through repeated additions or work out the area of an equivalent rectangle every time we needed to use multiplication to solve a problem. Eventually he realized that remembering 6 times 7 was 42 could save him a lot of effort. With this motivation and lots of practice in mental arithmetic, he has caught on to multiplication facts like a champ!

If your child still needs extra practice, make sure he or she has a strong understanding of the concepts in Mental Math in the Primary Grades and Mental Math in the Middle Grades.

When your child understands the concepts and needs to hold them in their memory, you can use Educational Insights MathShark, an electronic drill, or kinesthetic drills such as Addition Wrap Ups, Subtraction Wrap Ups, Multiplication Wrap Ups, or Division Wrap Ups. You might also find the tunes in Schoolhouse Rock! (Special 30th Anniversary Edition) helpful.

For the child who loves the social aspect or the competition of a good game, The Iguana Factor Multiplication Game is an excellent way to help them learn the multiplication facts without them even realizing it.

But I'm no good at math!

You are probably better than you think you are.

Your first step in feeling good about math is to recognize the places you use math everyday: shopping, scheduling, budgeting, even cooking! As you build confidence you will be able to build on your math skills. You can then pass the same confidence and skills on to your kids.

Am I qualified to teach my child?

If you are a confident, creative and persistent learner yourself, then you are qualified to teach your child.

Beyond that, listen and care for her so that you can engage her with resources that appeal to her unique learning style.

How do I keep my child motivated?

Provide your child with resources that appeal to his learning style. Be careful not to compare him with other kids, especially his brothers and sisters. If a younger sibling happens to be more naturally talented, using different curricula can be helpful.

This is, the website built on our belief that learning is naturally fun. With the right expectation and approach, anyone can enjoy learning. But since each of us is unique, we each must find our own best way to learn. We know that we have found our way when learning is fun.

Here you will find books, products, and ideas that our family has used to make learning fun for each one of us. We hope that it encourages you to find your own way to have the fun of learning.