# Teaching Articles

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Cheat Sheet / Updated 09-12-2022

Before you get too excited, understand that the following information isn’t actually about how to cheat on the Praxis. It’s really about the most efficient ways to prepare for the exam. But “preparation sheet” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. Besides, cheating is unnecessary if you know what you’re doing, and sometimes figuring out what to do is actually easier. As Bart Simpson once said after accidentally studying for a test, “It was like a whole new way to cheat!”

View Cheat SheetArticle / Updated 07-18-2022

What do you pull out when you want to play school rather than actually teach? Why, one of these games, of course! The games in this list offer you much more than Monopoly or Connect Four; in fact, you can substitute any one of these for a subject lesson once in a while with no regrets. From electrical circuits to business conglomerates and from food chains to famous battles, these games cover math, science, social studies, and language arts in the finest tradition of play. Although playing these games may take longer than it would to present a ten-to-twenty-minute lesson in whatever, there’s something to be said for variety in the home schoolroom. Some of them can even be played solo, an unusual boon for games. You should be able to find all (or most) of these games at your local specialty game retailer. If your city manages to exist without a game store, you can usually order directly from the manufacturer from the website listed with each game, or try the following websites: Boardlandia Funagain Games Anti-Monopoly This is not your family Monopoly game. Invented by Ralph Auspach, a retired economics professor, you start the game as a monopolist or small business. You get two parallel sets of rules and two ways to play the game; it’s designed to show the difference between how a large corporation works and how a small business functions. Will you be a monopolist or a free market competitor? This is a game we pull down for high-school economics class; it is an update to the Landlord’s Game invented by Elizabeth Magie on her dining room table. For two to eight players; ages 8 and up; from University Games—if you lose your instructions, you can download more here. You can purchase from AreYouGame. Evolution In Evolution you create, evolve, and sustain your species. Applying trait cards to a base species allows it to adapt to the ever-changing climate of the table. This game requires a unique strategy not found in many other games, and you can upgrade it with its expansion, Flight. If you love this, you might also like Evolution: Climate, a stand-alone game (not an expansion to the original game). Recommended for ages 12 and older; for two to six players; North Star Games. Forbidden Island/Desert Forbidden Island and its kin: Forbidden Desert and Forbidden Sky, are cooperative games that pit you against the board. You need to work together as a team or you will lose. Forbidden Island, the first of the series, traps you on an island that slowly sinks into the sea. You need to collect four treasures and escape before the water engulfs you. Each game in the series presents different challenges and contains slightly different rules. If you absolutely love this series, you may also want to look for Pandemic, a more complicated game by the same designer. For 2–4 players; ages 10 and up; Game Wright. The Garden Game What do you get when you cross seeds, pollinators, predators, and the weather? Well, if you do it outside, you may get a garden out of it. If you do it inside, you’ll probably find yourself in the middle of The Garden Game. Your goal is to plant and pollinate your seeds before the predators or nasty weather gets the better of you. At the same time, you move around the board through the seasons. This game includes a nice, multipage discussion on plant pollination and gardening, and it definitely fits within an upper elementary or middle-school science curriculum. (My garden lover, however, loved playing this from age 5.) For two to six players, ages 8 and up; Ampersand Press. How Do You See the World? Ths card game comes closer to traditionally educational than anything else in this chapter. Choose one of 100 cards, roll the die, and answer the open-ended question. Categories include reflections, relationships, aspirations, life’s purpose, and beliefs. Typical questions for the game: How much do you want to work in a week? What is one meaningless activity you engage in? How does your past influence your future? If you want your kids to reflect and communicate about all kinds of issues and thoughts, this may be a game for you. How Do You See The World? would also make a great downtime game, whether you use it after dinner, while you travel, or at a family gathering between activities. For one to however-many players; ages 12 and up; Authentic Agility Games. Into the Forest This card game explores the food chains of the forest. From the animal and plant cards in your hand, you pit one portion of the food chain against another, much like the game of war. So if you lay down a Grass card, and your opponent places Millipedes on the table, your opponent gets your Grass card because Millipedes eat decaying grass. Rather than win by point accumulation, players compete against a timer to simulate the never-ending cycle of life in the forest. List this game under science. (If your students really enjoy the game and its concepts, this company also produces the game Onto the Desert, which focuses on survival in the desert climate.) For two to six players, ages 7 and up; Ampersand Press. Krypto Krypto is one of those classic card games that people muse over. “Oh yes, I remember Krypto . . . ” and they lapse into silence, wondering if it’s still available. Although kind of difficult to locate, the game is still around. Each player gets five numerical cards, ranging anywhere from 1 to 25. Then a target card is turned face up; this is your goal card. Using all five cards, you need to somehow equal the target number through addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division. Krypto also comes in a fractions supplement (fraction cards that you add to the regular Krypto game). Kryto accommodates one to ten players of any age. You can also find this game on Amazon.com. Periodic Genius Games is known for its real science games, by real scientists. Periodic is no exception. In this game you create compounds by visiting each of their elements on the periodic table. Once you gather all needed ingredients, the compound becomes yours and it marches you toward victory. This is a great game for learning about elements and compounds, not to mention memorizing the periodic table. In the box you’ll find the game instructions, but you’ll also see a booklet that discusses the science behind the game. Other games by Genius include: Ion, Covalence, Cytosis, and Tesla vs. Edison. For two to five players; ages 10 and up; Genius Games. Spell Smashers In Spell Smashers you play as a rugged adventurer, descending into dungeons and defeating monsters. You use gold that you gain through your exploits to purchase upgrades that make you a better adventurer. And oh yes, this is a game about making words. You draw letters as you go into battle and use them to construct words. Just for fun, each monster that you encounter marches onto the board with an adjective card. A nasty elemental, you say? A tiny minotaur? The adjective cards modify the monsters, and each monster carries a letter that you can use in words after you defeat it. This game makes spelling and word construction fun. Because of its fantasy wrapper, this is more appealing to kids than “Hey guys, wanna spell some words?” For one to five players; ages 12 and up; Renegade Game Studios. Wingspan This is visually a beautiful game. You are a bird enthusiast: a bird watcher, ornithologist, or researcher. Your goal is to discover and assemble birds according to their habitat, and to do this you need to feed your birds, gather eggs (which allow you to access upgrades that help you gather more birds), and build your habitat. This is an engine-building game. You have a certain set of cards, these cards all have certain abilities, and those abilities work together like a machine to help you win the game. Engine building is a particular genre of game; if you love this game, you may like Gizmos (less involved than Wingspan), or Terraforming Mars (more involved than Wingspan). For one to five players; ages 10 and up; Stonemaier Games.

View ArticleCheat Sheet / Updated 03-23-2022

Homeschooling is more than recreating school at home. It’s the opportunity to guide your children through their education in the best way possible for them. Turn here when you’re looking for useful homeschooling websites or inspiration and encouragement from friendly newsletters and magazines. When you feel that end-of-the-semester crunch and the method for calculating grade point averages slips your mind, you can find that here as well.

View Cheat SheetArticle / Updated 08-30-2020

Homeschool media stories that tout homeschooling as expensive, elitist, and only for the wealthy are simply not true. The truth, which is that anyone can homeschool for nearly free if they need to, doesn’t make splashy headlines. Many people manage to homeschool their children for about $500 per child, per year, on the average or less. Some swing it on $500 per family. A few manage to teach for nearly free, but they’re the truly dedicated bargain shoppers. Five hundred dollars per child, per year, is a good round figure for estimation because you can get a good number of books, supplies, and even a few extra goodies like field trips for that amount. Now, opting for a $500 budget means that your child won’t be using the coolest, newest whizbang textbooks for every subject, but it also means that you can provide a more-than-adequate education. Set a budget for homeschooling supplies at the beginning of the year, but remember that you’re bound to pick up some fun stuff along the way. So, include that in your estimates. Setting up a reasonable budget can give you realistic boundaries while also letting you know that you can do this. Keep in mind that preschool and kindergarten are relatively cheap educational years. After you stockpile construction paper, glue, crayons, kiddy scissors, and some read-aloud books, you’re most of the way there. As you rise through the ranks, however, books get more and more expensive, until you reach the high school level where a new science book may cost you $90 or more. With more than one child, however, your costs go down every time the next child in line uses that $90 book. Planning a $90 purchase when three children can use the book in turn gives you a sturdy text for $30 per child in the long run. When you think about pulling your child out of a private- or public-school system, don’t forget to consider all the items that you currently pay for that will become irrelevant, such as Book rentals Club fees School lunches Tuition (for private school) You can apply that money to the extra costs that you now have, such as textbooks and lunches at home. Even clothing costs take a dive when you realize that you can homeschool in your sweats and no longer need school-appropriate clothes for each day of the week. If you opt for low-cost or almost-free homeschooling, you find yourself trading time and energy for the money you’d normally spend on curriculum. Trips to the library take time; you may spend hours writing math practice sheets for your first grader or searching for them on the web so you can print them out. Buying the books you need for the whole year saves you time and gas, but it means you need to fork over the money to pay for the books yourself and find a place to store them in your home. On the other hand, families can spend as much as they like on homeschooling. I know at least one family that considers homeschooling their major spending hobby, and they have plenty of money to spend. Such a family may drop $6,000 or more per child, per year, on homeschooling, but to do that you need to purchase the most expensive curricula that you can find. Look for curriculum ideas and resources in Homeschooling For Dummies, 2nd Edition. I could fill a 700-page book with nothing but recommendations for books and kits that you can use to teach with. If you purchase everything mentioned, you’ll easily top the $2,000-per-child marker. No homeschool family does all this. For one thing, people only have 24 hours per day, and trying to follow all these systems and add-ons would take many times that.

View ArticleArticle / Updated 08-30-2020

Every homeschooler has fears that nag and whisper in the night. Maybe going with the flow would be better. Whether you’re contemplating taking the leap into homeschooling, you’re a first-year homeschooler, or you’ve been doing this for ages, one or more of the fears that I discuss in this list is bound to hit you sooner or later. The good news is that they’re only fears and nothing more. When the sun shines again and you look into those bright eyes that live at your house, you reach for the math book and know you’re doing the right thing for your family. For the benefit of your middle-of-the-night uneasiness, this list contains the answers to classic homeschool fears. My child will never make friends if I homeschool. Actually, the truth is that it’s harder to stay at home and actually do the work than it is to pile everybody into the car and trek across town to another homeschooler’s house for the day. When I began teaching my children at home, I had it easy: Another homeschooler lived four houses down. However, keeping everybody inside until the day’s work was done was still hard. Play sets longed for company, bikes sat idle, and five pairs of inline skates (belonging to the other children as well as to mine) cried for attention. As long as you involve your child in activities with other homeschoolers or in the community and let him out of the house once in a while, your child will make friends. Due to the nonsegregated nature of homeschooling, your child’s friends may surprise you: Some will probably be a bit older, others younger, and she may even take a liking to the grandma down the street. (Who wouldn’t like a woman who cultivates gorgeous flowerbeds and serves great cookies?) One of the easiest ways to meet other homeschoolers is to hang out where they hang out. Join a homeschool co-op. Participate in the local library homeschool activities. Call your YMCA, YWCA, or other athletic club and ask about daytime classes for homeschoolers. Sooner or later, you’re bound to meet another family or two like yours. I don’t know enough to teach my child. If you took it, you can teach it. Did you make it through second grade? Then you can teach second-grade math and reading. Remember that I’m not talking about lecturing to a 30-member class. Picture yourself with your second-grader reading words and sentences while snuggled on your lap. Perhaps you sit next to your fourth-grader and talk about fractions while you cut an extra-large, chocolate-chip cookie into sixths for a tasty math lesson. After a while, when your child brings questions to you that you can’t answer off the top of your head, you learn together. Hand in hand with your child, you read through the textbook or research at the library or on the internet. You’ll want to stay a bit ahead of your student in some classes, and you can pursue other subjects together. If you have high-school-age students, they can do the legwork and bring you the answers. My child will miss out on socialization. That depends. What kind of socialization do you want your child to have? If you’re talking about being herded into a room with 20 or more other children and told not to talk all day, then your child’s probably going to miss that experience. If you mean the socialization that your child receives during ten-minute lunches in an impersonal school cafeteria where a monitor walks around the room constantly so that children remain silent while they eat, then your child probably won’t experience that at home, either. If you mean the kind of socialization that arises from the opportunity to interact with other humans in a natural environment, then homeschooling provides a sterling chance to gain the social skills that can prepare your child for a well-adjusted adulthood. Homeschooling gives your child the chance to experience life as it is lived, rather than institutionalization for six hours each day. Your child gets to socialize with people of all different ages and various walks of life throughout the day as he accompanies you to the post office, greets the FedEx-delivery person at the door, and participates in co-op classes across town. Homeschool children don’t feel threatened when they come into contact with younger or older children because, in their world, people come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. A 12-year-old homeschooler can interact just as easily with a 5-year-old as she can with a 16-year-old because, in her eyes, age doesn’t segregate people. Isn’t this the kind of socialization that you want your kids to experience? I will buy the wrong curriculum. Take a deep breath. Homeschoolers buy the wrong curriculum sooner or later. It happens. It happened to me, it happened to nearly every homeschooler I know, and it’s part of life. A problem occurs only if you keep buying the wrong curriculum even after you know it doesn’t fit your child. Because every child is different, some books, approaches, and projects work better with one child than they do another. Often you have the extremes right in your own household, like I do. I purchase the curriculums for a few subjects with both children in mind, but I need to buy other curriculums from separate publishers because my children learn differently. If you have more than one child, and you buy the “wrong” curriculum for the oldest one or two, you can always keep it around in the hopes that a younger child may use the curriculum. When I purchase something for one child and it doesn’t work, I try it with the other one awhile to see if it clicks. With children only one grade level apart, I can do that, and it minimizes my off purchases. Purchasing one year’s books at a time also helps to minimize the damage. If you buy a language-arts curriculum that does not click with your child this year, you can always struggle through (maybe with some homegrown modifications) and try another publisher next year. Deciding that a new curriculum is the best thing since sliced zucchini and purchasing all eight years’ worth without testing it out first may be a waste of money if your little darling doesn’t like it or if the new curriculum presents information in a way that your child doesn’t comprehend. If you find yourself with a stack of unusable books after the beginning of a school year, you can always pass them along to a homeschooler who needs them, donate them to your local homeschool lending library, or sell them used through your area vendor or an online swap shop, such as a Facebook homeschool book exchange. Although the curriculum doesn’t fit your child, someone will be delighted to get it because it matches that child’s needs. My child will learn less at home than he does at school. If you took your child out of school because he wasn’t learning, then you already know how little information your child amassed at school. You also know that with a little effort you can match or exceed that level at home. Good for you! Most parents who worry about a child’s learning levels are the ones who never sent their children to school in the first place. They somehow think that those hours spent poring over math books, learning parts of speech, and dissecting tulips this past spring count for less because they were done at home. Or maybe they believe that the schools teach something that they can’t duplicate at home. Relax. As long as you select a grade-level book for the year and follow it, your child can learn at least as much as her school-aged peers. Because you don’t have to keep pace with the slowest child in the class, you actually have the freedom to work at your child’s pace. In some courses, that may mean taking a year and a half to finish a textbook, but when you’re done, you know that your child understands the material. He didn’t simply read the words and move on. In other classes, you may stay right on target or even do a book and a half within a year’s time. If your child assimilates science quickly, and you find yourself moving through the science book faster than you thought, you can always take the extra time to incorporate experiments into the class instead of moving to the next book. One way to keep tabs on your child’s grade levels, even if your state doesn’t require it, is to give your child a standardized test each year. That gives you a general idea how your child regurgitates information and applies knowledge based on the current national norms. If your child scores above 50 percent on a standardized test, that means that he performed as well as or better than half the students who took the test. Not a very detailed way of measuring progress, but it may ease your mind. I’ll never have free time again. Oh, sure you will. And it may even happen before they graduate! Actually, one of the best things you can do for your kids — as well as for yourself — is to carve out a niche of time each week especially for you. Maybe that means watching a movie you want to see one evening after the kids go to bed. Perhaps you leave all the darlings in the care of your spouse and go shopping for a couple hours. When you take a couple hours to do whatever you want to do (within reason, of course), you return to the job-at-hand refreshed and ready to go. You don’t have to take a really long break. Sometimes soaking for an hour with your favorite novel does the trick. The very fact that you thought enough of you to schedule some alone time does your heart good. My child may not be learning at the right pace. As long as your child is learning, adding new skills to the ones already mastered, then you’re doing fine. After all, what is the “right” pace for learning? That depends on whom you talk to. If you want your child to actually learn the material, it may take a bit longer than breezing through the pages and marking them with checks to show you read them. The best learning involves active participation. Instead of reading through the sample math problem, your child needs to complete a couple problems on his own so he really knows how it’s done. The parent of a special-needs scholar takes learning at the child’s own pace. This student covers material one concept at a time until it’s all mastered. Sometimes it moves quickly; on other days, it goes pretty slow. As a tutor, you can do the same with your child. If she catches onto a concept quickly and gives you that bored I’ve-got-it-already look, you can safely move on. If she struggles to master another concept, then you can take as long as you need to master it before you continue. If you stick with it day after day, you’ll probably still get through the book before the end of the year or close to it. I won’t be able to do it all. Of course, you won’t be able to do it all. Nobody does it all and stays sane. It’s impossible to homeschool every day, cook a six-course meal each evening, mow the lawn twice a week, clean the house till it’s spotless on the weekend, wax the dog on Saturdays, and hand buff the car every other week while running a home business and decorating the house to look like a million bucks. Lives like this only happen with A-squared personalities or in the movies. A- squared personalities have way too much stress in their lives to be healthy, and the movies don’t happen in real life. In real life, you find yourself cleaning up the spilled cereal milk while engaging in a futile effort to catch the dog — futile because you waxed him yesterday. I can’t tell you the last time I went out to dinner with a Hollywood star (well, I could tell you but you wouldn’t believe me). However, I do recall the day that I homeschooled for four hours, mopped the kitchen floor, and made a dinner that was more than a casserole with a side salad. So rest in the knowledge that nobody real gets it all done every day. Pick your priorities and go with those. If a spotless house is high on your list, make that a priority and encourage everybody to pitch in to make it happen. On the other hand, if you’d rather wax the dog and run a home business while you homeschool, the house will probably look lived in most of the time. (Is that so bad, if you truly live there?) The dog, however, consistently shines. After I start, I have to do this forever. Nope. Not so. You don’t even have to finish the year out, although sticking with homeschooling one year at a time is probably the wisest thing you can do. Giving up on a three-month-old experiment doesn’t tell you much except that you quit before the end of the year. Sticking it out until spring tells you more — you have an idea where your strengths lie, what your weaknesses may be (in curriculum, planning, or even other areas), and the facets of your homeschool that you may change next year — if there is a next year. Most homeschoolers teach one year at a time. Very few start out in preschool declaring that they plan to do this through college. Your child may only need to be home for a year or two before you send her back to school. Or you may decide to teach for the first eight years at home and send him to high school. What is the best plan for your family? No matter what the plan looks like, that is the plan you should follow. If it means taking it one year at a time until you look up one day and your oldest is nearing the end of her senior year, then that’s great! But if you teach your child at home for the first three years and then decide he has enough of a head start to move into the school system, then that’s just as good. As long as your decision strengthens your family and meets your needs as a family unit, then it’s the right decision and you homeschooled just long enough. I’m not keeping the right (or enough) records on my child’s progress. If you’re tracking whatever your state asks you to track, then you’re probably doing all right. Your state may require attendance records and immunization records only — keep those up-to-date and nobody can argue with you. On the other hand, if you live in a state that wants you to keep track of each book that you use, to keep a file for a portion of your child’s worksheets and creative writing, and you do it, you’re fine. Most of us struggle with the paper concept: More is better — the more records, worksheets, poems, coloring pages, and construction-paper creations that are kept on file, the better. Actually, as long as you keep the right snippets of paper, you can happily throw the rest of the stuff away with a clear conscience. (You may want to do it while Junior isn’t looking.) If you have a high schooler, then you need to track individual courses, textbooks (with authors), course content, grades, and sometimes hours of instruction, depending on your state law. This is the information that you use to create the high-school transcript for colleges and other post-secondary schools, as well as a document that gives the admissions office a picture of your child’s high-school education experience.

View ArticleArticle / Updated 08-29-2020

Homeschooling can be stressful, and extreme stress pulls at a family’s seams. It tugs holes in the fabric you created when you gathered your little ones around you and taught them how to face the world together. You may find that you need to spend some time refashioning your family fashion fabric back into that sleek, gorgeous group that you used to be, before whatever stress happened that caused you to think about homeschooling in the first place. Setting your schedule Some families work best with a solid, unwavering schedule. Up at 7:30, breakfast, showers, math, language arts, lunch, reading, science, social studies, art, play time. Other families prefer a loose flow to their day: They get up whenever, have a late (or early) breakfast, and start school when everyone is gathered together. Or perhaps they start with the early bird and work more children into the day as they rise and begin to move. Your family’s schedule will be your own. It may look like one of these. It probably won’t. I know that our schedule falls somewhere between the two, and yours may too. The important thing isn’t that you follow someone’s schedule. The important thing is that you discover and follow your own schedule — the schedule that fits your family the best. Building your schedule works well with a little family input, especially if your children are old enough to hold opinons (and what children aren’t?). If you can put together a routine or daily task list that takes everyone’s preferences into account, your house will be filled with much happier campers. Working together One of the joys of homeschooling is the ability to work together on . . . well, almost everything. It’s fun to snuggle on the sofa and listen to someone read from this week’s book. If you like to cook, many hands together put dinner on the table in less time — even if it does create a mountain of mess that has to be cleaned later. Some subjects lend themselves to cooperative effort. Poetry reading, art, some science experiments, reading aloud, music, and learning about the world in social studies can be tackled as a family group. (You could also tie everything together in a unit study.) Outside of school hours, bringing everybody into family projects like bush trimming and weeding, painting the garage, or redecorating the living room (okay . . . which one of you wanted to paint all the walls purple and black?) help to bring the family together. It’s a huge sigh of relief and accomplishment when you all stand together and look at a job all finished and well done. Dad’s or Mom’s role in your homeschool Homeschooling is a whole-family adventure. It doesn’t fit neatly into a Monday-through-Friday-from-8 a.m.-to-3:30 p.m. routine; instead, it becomes more of a lifestyle. Life itself becomes your classroom, and your children learn as they walk through it with you. Much of what you teach them fits nowhere into your planning book: values, priorities, likes and dislikes — yet it’s learning, all the same. If they weren’t learning it from you, they’d certainly learn it from someone else. Aren’t you glad they learn it from you? In much the same way, homeschooling involves more than the primary teaching parent. It incorporates everyone in the household, and sometimes the extended family as well — parents, siblings, and maybe even grandparents or cousins, depending on your family structure. Pulling everybody together and getting it all done takes a bit of ingenuity, but the result is a family that travels together in one direction. Generally, one parent takes the position as primary homeschool instructor or learning guide. Usually mom fills that role, but more and more dads are stepping up to the homeschool plate and teaching their children at home. If you foresee it working best for you if dad teaches the classes, then give it a try. Working with your children each day gives you a relationship that few men enjoy, and the homeschool dads I’ve talked to absolutely love what they do and wouldn’t want it any other way. Sometimes the parent who doesn’t keep up with the lesson book or explain the math problems feels left out of the educational experience. Often these parents think they’re unqualified to make schooling decisions because they don’t do it every year and letting their partners do it is easier. However, they miss much of the excitement and learning that goes on when they divorce themselves from the day-to-day homeschooling flow. Incorporating the non-teaching parent as often as possible can help. Although holding math class until dad gets home from work may not be the most inclusive (or stress free) move you could make, you may schedule a school field trip to the nearest museum on a Saturday or the working parent’s day off so that you can all go together. That way, you take advantage of both parents’ knowledge as you tour the exhibits. If you know science inside and out, but your partner’s specialty is history, you cover both subjects in depth during a trip, which increases the trip’s usefulness for all. Here are some other ideas to involve the parent who doesn’t carry the primary teaching load: Schedule vacation trips that involve some educational content. This allows both parents to help with the learning, explain what the children see, and generally enjoy the experience. Encourage the non-teaching parent to share what he knows about a subject dear to his heart. If kites truly jazz him, then spend some time looking at kites, why they fly, and how they fly. You may even make a kite or two together from plans you can find at the library and spend an off-work day flying. One or two evenings a week for an extended period of time covers much ground — especially when the parent teaches what he loves. Set aside an evening a week to pursue a topic you’ve always wanted to cover as a family, and make it part of your school time. If you want to dive into a subject, such as gourmet cooking or amateur radio, you’ll find it’s much more fun when it’s a whole-family adventure. And with a pastime, such as cooking, you automatically have more hands to help with cleanup when you schedule a family affair. Because parents like to learn too, this gives mom something to look forward to after a day at the office. Change your weekly school schedule once in a while to incorporate both parents. Although it may sound kind of strange, you can schedule a Saturday School and then take a day off the next week. Holding Saturday School once a month or so keeps the nonprimary teacher in the loop with everything you teach and gives the children the benefit of working with both parents every now and then. Incorporate a sharing time into your routine. Remember “Show and Tell,” when kindergarteners and first graders drag their favorite items to school — hopefully to bring them home again without losing them in the meantime — to share with their classmates? You can do the same thing at home by setting aside some time to share each child’s progress with the parent who doesn’t usually teach each day. What was the neatest picture your youngest made this week? Which new fact astounded your oldest? These topics make great dinner conversation as well as after-dinner presentation time. Children love to show their progress to the people they care for the most. Regardless which parent primarily homeschools, unless you’re willing to make some additional personal-time sacrifices and perhaps follow rather unique schooling hours, one parent needs to be available during the day hours for homeschooling to be effective. If you have the freedom to take your children to work with you, that’s great — but if not, and they’re too young to stay home and work on their own, then you need to be at home each day with them.

View ArticleArticle / Updated 08-29-2020

Homeschooling an elementary-age child can be challenging when you have to tackle a subject that they find difficult. For many children, math is a pretty ethereal subject. After all, you’re working with symbols that may (or may not) mean something to the child, and expecting him to take these symbols, read the code sign between them, and correctly come up with a new symbol. Is it any wonder so many children have problems with math? You understand the symbols because you’ve done math for years, but if the code doesn’t click with your child, he’s going to have problems discerning the answers to the numbers on the page. Your goal is to make those symbols mean something. After the symbols have meaning, then true math learning takes place. Just because your child can count to 100 by rote doesn’t mean that she understands what 100 may stand for. How many times did you hear the age-old ABC song before your child had any clue what those letters actually stood for? She sang the song, you applauded, and so she sang it again with even more gusto. The same can be true for counting by rote (1, 2, 3 . . . 98, 99, 100!). You usually figure out your child hasn’t put concept and symbol together when you try to show him how to add or subtract a few of those numbers that he’s been chanting for weeks. That’s when everything falls apart if it’s going to — he may look at those symbols like he never saw them before. For all he knows, you may as well be teaching him to add and subtract Roman numerals. There is a way out of this dilemma. The solution is math manipulatives, an educational term for math help that you can get your fingers around. Math manipulatives can truly be anything that you can count or measure with, although some items function better than others: Base-ten blocks: These are counting blocks. Beginning with the one-centimeter cube and the ten-centimeter rod, a base-ten set adds a 100 block that looks like ten of the ten-centimeter rods fused together, and a large cube that represents 1,000. You can add and subtract large numbers with this set; all the blocks come in the same color so they look the same and the learner concentrates on the size instead of the color. Cuisenaire rods: These ten little rods range from one-centimeter cubes to pieces of wood that are ten centimeters long. Each rod is one centimeter longer or shorter than the others, they come in predictable colors (for example, the five-centimeter rod is always yellow), and you can use them to add, subtract, multiply, divide, and do fractions, among other things. One set of rods contains several of each rod length. M&Ms: You know them, you eat them, and now you can count with them, too! With a few bowls and a pile of M&Ms, you can add, subtract, multiply, divide, and have snack time all at once! (Fractions are tough with M&Ms.) Do it quickly, though; if you hold them long enough, they do melt in your hand. Pattern blocks: Using these little plastic tiles, your child learns about patterns, fractions, geometric shapes, and tessellations (patterns that fit into one another and arguably go on forever). Shapes include square, triangle, hexagon, rhombus, and trapezoid. If you want to play with these online before you track them down at your local educational store, visit the Math Learning Center website. Pennies: Although half-dollar coins are easier to find on the table, pennies are much cheaper if you happen to be counting to 100. These function the same as M&Ms, but you don’t get the added thrill of eating the chocolate when you finish math class. To drive home the point, you can always make your own ten-count penny sticks by gluing ten pennies to a strip of light cardboard. This way, your child knows there are ten pennies per strip because she patiently sat and glued each one of them. (Use water-soluble glue so you can reclaim the pennies after fourth grade.) You can use manipulatives with any math program, but some programs are specifically designed for use with hands-on helpers. One of these is Miquon Math. Miquon primarily uses the Cuisenaire rods as manipulatives. Using Miquon, the child learns how to use the rods as he learns the math concepts. Miquon is a little weak in time (clock reading) and story problems, but it’s designed to lay a conceptual foundation in the first three years of elementary school. Children leave Miquon with the equivalent of a fifth- or sixth-grade math education, and they then move on to another program. Here are some other math programs that you may want to take a look at: Beast Academy: Who doesn’t love a few monsters with their math? This program is designed for kids who like to be challenged. Designed for ages 8–13, each level includes an engaging comic book (called a Guide Book) that teaches the concepts along with a student Practice Book filled with problems and math puzzles. Key To series: This is where you go after Miquon. The Key To books present a single concept per page, and each set of booklets covers a particular topic: decimals, fractions, percents, measurement, algebra, or geometry. These books say they’re for grades 4 through 12; however, the geometry curriculum is “proofless geometry;” therefore, it doesn’t qualify as regular high-school-level geometry. This curriculum is currently published by McGraw Hill; available from homeschool suppliers or Amazon. Math Mammoth: This curriculum covers grades 1 through 7, and it does it either topic by topic or in a customary progression, your choice. It’s inexpensive as math curriculums go, and it’s comprehensive. Available in either digital or paper format. RightStart Mathematics: This curriculum augments lessons with a ton of varied manipulatives — a math balance, measuring tools, fraction manipulatives, and their own abacus. This is a full and solid math program. Levels A through H cover grades K/1 through about grade 8. (You begin with Level A with a child who cannot add or subtract, regardless of the age.)

View ArticleArticle / Updated 02-24-2020

When you first began looking into what is or isn’t tested on the Praxis writing exam, your reaction to finding out that there were questions about capitalization was probably something like “There are questions about capitalization on this test?! What am I, in third grade?” Yes, you almost certainly already know that the first letters of the first words of sentences are capitalized, as are people’s names; the names of proper places like cities, states, or countries; the names of companies like “Facebook”; the names of sports teams and bands; and the words in the titles of books, movies, and so on. You may not, however, know some of the trickier rules about capitalization, and those are the ones that the Praxis writing test will ask about. Here’s a rundown of the most common capitalization-related tricks: Titles, like “president”: Titles, such as “president,” “mayor,” and so forth, are only capitalized when they are placed before the name of, or used to indicate, a specific president or mayor or what have you. So, you should write “Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president,” but “Everyone knows that President Lincoln wore a stovepipe hat.” If you’re talking about the current president (or mayor, or whomever), you capitalize the word even if the person’s name doesn’t appear in the sentence, because you’re still indicating a specific person: “The President held a press conference this morning.” The same rule applies for God versus a god: You capitalize “God” when referring to a/the deity with the proper name God, but not when you’re talking about deities in general: “I prayed to God that I would pass the test” versus “Apollo was one of the Greek gods.” The names of seasons: Many people are unclear about this, but the rule is that the names of seasons are only capitalized if you are addressing the season directly, as you might in a poem. So, you say “I love the way the leaves change color in the fall,” but “Oh, my beloved Fall, how I love it when your leaves change color!” The names of specific regions, even if they are not actual countries: You should capitalize the names of all proper nouns, and that includes geographical areas that are not technically specific countries, cities, and the like: “My uncle frequently travels to the Far East.” You should not, however, capitalize the names of cardinal directions when they’re just used to indicate directions rather than an areas: “My uncle has to fly east to get to the Far East.” You should also not capitalize the “cardinal direction” part of a name when a suffix is attached to it, because that involves a comparison rather than a proper name, with the exception of cases where the cardinal direction with a comparative suffix is part of an actual proper noun: “Many people don’t realize that northern Brazil lies in the Northern Hemisphere.” Specific eras in history: The title of a specific period in history, even a slang or unofficial one, is a proper noun and should be capitalized accordingly: “The Disco Era was mercifully short-lived.”

View ArticleArticle / Updated 02-24-2020

Correctly answering selected-response items on the writing portion of the Praxis requires that you read each question carefully. Where possible, put the question into your own words. Be sure to read every choice before you make your selection. Eliminate the obviously wrong choices The process of elimination can help you choose the correct answer in a selected-response question. Start by crossing off the answers that couldn’t be right. Then spend your time focusing on the possible correct choices before selecting your answer. Doing so greatly increases the odds of your choosing correctly. Pay special attention to answers that contain these words: none, never, all, more, always, and only. These words indicate that the answer is an undisputed fact and, consequently, isn’t likely to be the correct choice. Conditional words like usually or probably make the answer more likely. Be particularly careful of selected-response questions using the words not, least, and except. These questions usually ask you to select the choice that doesn’t fit. Stay alert! It’s easy to misread these questions. Don’t be afraid to say it’s right the way it is Although it may seem counterintuitive, if a sentence is correct as written, “No error” is the correct answer. Fear not: some tasks will be written correctly. Just be sure to consider all the choices before making your decision. The art of guessing as a last resort Your score is based on the number of correct answers. You’re not penalized for incorrect answers. For this reason, you should answer every question. If you face a difficult question, narrow your choices as much as possible and, if necessary, guess! Don’t spend too much time considering a difficult question. Mark the question and come back to it. Answer the easy questions first. You’re not expected to answer all the questions correctly. In order to pass the Praxis, you must simply achieve the minimum passing score for your state. A word of advice about “trusting your ear” If you grew up in a family of English teachers who corrected your every incorrect utterance, complete with an accompanying grammar lesson, it’s probably pretty safe for you to “trust your ear”; that is, whatever sounds right to you is likely to be right. However, if you’re like most people, you grew up in a family that was considerably less interested in your grammar. Language that sounds right to you is simply language you’re accustomed to hearing and may very well be incorrect. Play it safe and analyze the sentence carefully. It’s easy to make a mistake when “trusting the ear.” Consider some examples. Neither the boys nor the girl (is/are) paying attention. While “are” may sound right, the correct answer is “is.” The verb agrees with the closest subject when subjects are compound. I will split the cost between you and (I/me). You probably hear someone use the incorrect construction of “between you and I” pretty often. Just because you hear it spoken, though, doesn’t mean it’s correct grammar. Objects of the preposition must be objective case, so “me” is the pronoun to use here. You and (I/me) should see that new movie. In this example, the personal pronoun is being used as one of the subjects of the sentence. Subjects must be nominative case, so “I” is the correct choice here.

View ArticleArticle / Updated 02-24-2020

For the Praxis Core exam, you need to become familiar with many ways to display or represent your data. Using lists, tables, graphs, charts, and plots to represent data is a surefire way to make sure you aren’t tricked by the data. These methods of organizing data can also help you see patterns more readily. In the sections that follow, you become skilled at dissecting and interpreting different types of data representations. Tables When you have gobs of data about a particular subject, you can sort, analyze, and display your data in a table. Tables only work if you have at least two sets of data to be organized into columns and rows. When working with tables, make sure to pay attention to the title of the table; it helps you understand what data to analyze. Next, notice the column and row titles. In the following table, the data for the types of flowers and the number of each type of plant in Mary’s flower bed are listed. Make sure to read your question carefully and dissect the data accordingly. Which ratio compares the number of rose plants to the number of daffodil plants? A. 3:2 B. 2:3 C. 4:3 D. 5:6 E. 3:4 The correct answer is Choice (B). The ratio of roses to daffodils is 8:12; when factored, the ratio is 2:3. The Praxis Core exam will expect answers in the simplest form. Bar graphs and line graphs A bar graph uses the length of vertical or horizontal bars to represent numbers and compare data. Bar graphs are good to use when your data is in categories. Bar graphs must contain a title, axis labels for the horizontal and vertical axis, scales, and bars that represent numbers. The following bar graph shows the number of canned goods collected by homerooms at Cardozo Middle School. Mr. Smith’s homeroom collected more cans than how many other homerooms? A. 3 B. 4 C. 5 D. 6 E. 7 The correct answer is Choice (A). Use the graph to compare the number of cans collected by each homeroom. According to the lengths of the vertical bars, Mr. Smith’s homeroom collected more cans than Mr. Lewis, Mr. Davis, and Mrs. Reed’s classes. Line graphs are graphs that show data that is connected in some way over a period of time. Suppose you’re preparing for a statistics test and each day you take a short online quiz to see how you’re progressing. These are the results: Day 1 30 percent Day 2 20 percent Day 3 50 percent Day 4 60 percent Day 5 80 percent After you’ve created a table from your results, display them in a line graph. You can then decide, based on your progress on the practice quizzes, how likely you are to pass your statistics test. What trends do you see in the following graph? The graph indicates that as the days of practicing the online quizzes increase, your score increases; so, you will, more than likely, pass your statistics test. Pie charts Are you ready for a slice of pie? Pie charts are also known as circle graphs. These graphs focus on a whole set of data that is divided into parts. Each category represented in a pie chart is represented by a part, called a sector, of the interior of the circle. The portion of the circle interior a category’s sector takes up is part of what represents the portion of the whole (population, number of items sold, and so on) the category makes up. For example, if a pie chart represents categories of county government spending and 10 percent of the county government spending goes to road maintenance, the category of road maintenance would be labeled in a sector that takes up 10 percent of the interior of the circle. The sector would also have “10%” presented in it, and the sector would be labeled with “Road Maintenance.” Move the decimal point two places to the right and add a percent symbol. Multiply the percent by 360 to get the number of degrees for that slice of your pie chart. Display all the slices together in the pie chart. The following table shows the conversion of raw data to information that can be used to create a pie chart. The resulting pie chart is shown in the example question. When reading a pie chart, the larger the value, the larger the piece of pie! Stem-and-leaf plots A stem-and-leaf plot blossoms into a useful graph when analyzed properly. You usually use this type of graph when you have large amounts of data to analyze. You can analyze data sets such as classroom test results or scores of the basketball team using a stem-and-leaf plot. Based on place value, each value in your data set is divided into a stem and leaf. What each stem and leaf plot represents is indicated by a Key. Draw a vertical line to separate the stem from the leaf. The leaf is always the last digit in the number. The stem represents all other digits to the left of the leaf. To divide 105 into stem-and-leaf format, you draw a line to separate the stem from the leaf, which indicates a stem of 10 and a leaf of 5. Say you have the following numbers: 50, 65, 65, 60, 50, 50, 55, 70, 55 The first step is to arrange your data in least-to-greatest order, as follows: 50, 50, 50, 55, 55, 60, 65, 65, 70 Now arrange these numbers vertically in a table: Math Test Results Stem Leaf 5 0 0 0 5 5 6 0 5 5 7 0 Key: 5|0 means 50 This arrangement allows you to quickly identify your stems. Your stems in the data set are 5, 6, and 7. You have five data values in the list in the 50s: 50, 50, 50, 55, and 55. The leaves that go along with the 5 stem are 0, 0, 0, 5, and 5. You have three data values in the 60s: 60, 65, and 65. The leaves that go with the 6 stem are 0, 5, and 5. Finally, you have one leaf with a data value of 0 to accompany the stem of 7. When using a stem-and-leaf plot, you can quickly identify the least and greatest values in the data set (50 and 70), calculate the range (), and calculate the median or middle number (55). The following data shows the number of people visiting a particular frozen yogurt shop per hour across a 12-hour day. Hourly customers: 4, 17, 22, 31, 39, 40, 25, 43, 35, 40, 38, 13. When this data is arranged in a stem-and-leaf plot, you get the following diagram. Use it to answer the questions that follow. Hourly Customers Stem Leaf 0 4 1 3 7 2 2 5 3 1 5 8 9 4 0 0 3 Key: 4|0 means 40 What was the largest number of people that entered the shop during an hour? The correct answer is 43. Based on the diagram, the highest stem is 4 and the highest leaf in that stem is 3. Box-and-whisker plots Box-and-whisker plots, also known as box plots, show different parts of a data set using a line of numbers that are in order from least to greatest. A box-and-whisker plot allows you to divide your data into four parts using quartiles. The median, or middle quartile, divides the data into a lower half and an upper half (for more on finding the median, see the later section “Measuring arithmetic mean, median, or mode”). The median of the lower half is the lower quartile. The median of the upper half is the upper quartile. Your data set will contain the following five parts: The least value: The smallest value in the data set. The lower quartile: The median of the lower half of the data set. The median: The median or middle quartile. This divides the data into a lower half and an upper half. The median is the number in the center. If two numbers are in the center, find the average of the two middle values. The upper quartile: The median of the upper half of the data set. The greatest value: The largest value in the data set. The following diagram shows how data is dissected using a box-and-whisker plot. To create a box-and-whisker plot, follow the diagram below. The diagram begins with the data set. The data set is then put in least-to-greatest order. Underline the least value and the greatest value in the data set. Then find the median of the entire data set. Remember, when calculating the median, if there are two values in the center of a data set, find their average. The median divides the data set into the lower set and higher set. You must then find the median of the lower set. That is the lower quartile, or Q1. You also must find the median of the upper set. That median is the upper quartile, or Q3. The median of the entire set of data is Q2. The word “quartile” can also be used to refer to a division of numbers marked off by Q1, Q2, Q3, or the highest number in the entire set. After dissecting the data into the five values, graph the five values on a number line. Draw a box from Q1 to Q3. Draw a vertical line inside the box at Q2. The lines connecting the least and greatest values to the box are called the whiskers. Use the following graph to answer the following questions. This box plot indicates the scores from yesterday’s math test. Approximately what percent of the students did not get above 65%? A. 25% B. 50% C. 65% D. 75% E. 85% The correct answer is Choice (A). The box-and-whisker plot indicates that the lowest score on the test was 60. The median of the lower quartile is 65, so about 25 percent of the students scored lower than 65. It could be exactly 25 percent, depending on the number of students. What is the median test score from yesterday’s math test? A. 25% B. 50% C. 65% D. 75% E. 85% The correct answer is Choice (D). The median of the box-and-whisker plot is indicated by a line drawn through the center of the box. The value graphed at this point is 75. Venn diagrams “Venn” you need to picture relationships between different groups of things, use a Venn diagram. A Venn diagram is an illustration where individual data sets are represented using basic geometry shapes such as ovals, circles, or other shapes. Simply draw and label two or more overlapping circles to represent the sets you’re comparing. The sets overlap in an area called the intersection. When an item is listed in both sets, it goes in the intersection. If an item doesn’t fit in either set, it falls outside the circles or other shapes. Use the following graph to answer the following questions. Football is the favorite sport of how many students in the Venn diagram? A. 2 B. 5 C. 23 D. 25 E. 48 The correct answer is Choice (C). In the Venn diagram, 23 students picked football as their favorite sport. This is the only portion of the diagram reserved for football only. Football and basketball are the favorite sports of how many students? A. 2 B. 5 C. 23 D. 25 E. 48 The correct answer is Choice (B). Five students in the Venn diagram picked football and basketball. This is the portion of the diagram that football and basketball have in common. How many students did not choose football or basketball? A. 2 B. 5 C. 23 D. 25 E. 48 The correct answer is Choice (A). There are two students who did not fall inside the Venn diagram’s circles; therefore, they chose neither football nor basketball. Scramble around scatter plots If you want to determine the strength of your relationship, use a scatter plot. Scatter plots are graphical representations of two variables determining whether a positive, a negative, or no correlation exists. A correlation is a relationship between two variables in which as one increases or decreases, the other one tends to increase or decrease. There is a correlation between time studying and test scores, for example. As time studying increases, test scores tend to increase. Data from two sets are plotted in scatter plots as ordered pairs (x, y). You can draw three conclusions from scatter plots: If the coordinates are close to forming a straight line that rises up from left to right, then a positive relationship or correlation exists. If the coordinates are close to forming a straight line (line of best fit) with one variable increasing as the other decreases, then a negative relationship or correlation exists. If the coordinates don’t come close to forming a line and are all over the place, then no relationship or correlation exists! Hence, the name scatter plot. Here are the three types of correlations: Make sure to give your plot a title and make sure to label your axes when you create a scatter plot. Correlation alone does not prove causation. If a variable tends to increase as another variable increases, for example, it does not mean that the tendency is caused by the other variable. The number of mud puddles tends to become greater when the occurrence of lightning rises. Does an increase in the occurrence of lightning cause the number of mud puddles to get higher? Do the additions of mud puddles cause more lightning? The correlation between the two does not prove that one causes the other, and in fact neither causes the other. An increase in rain causes both. Also, even when a change in one variable does cause a change in another, that alone does not prove which variable change is causing which. Studies have shown that changes in the closeness of the moon cause shifting of the tides, but the correlation by itself is not the proof. If correlation worked that way, we could just as easily conclude that the shifting of the tides causes major changes in the closeness of the moon. Loiter around line plots If you want to see your mode (the value that occurs the most) pop up quickly, use a line plot. A line plot, also known as a dot plot, allows you to identify the range, mode, and outliers in your data set. Follow these simple steps: Put your data in order from least to greatest. Arrange your data on a number line. Mark each value in the data set with an x or a dot. Using the following line plot, determine the mode of the data set. A. 50 B. 60 C. 70 D. 80 E. 90 The correct answer is Choice (E). The score of 90 appears in the data set the most.

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