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Fabulous Family Friday–‘Rithmetic

Friday, February 11th, 2011



I have a confession to make.

Math is the “bug-a-boo” at our house!  :o 

Whenever “life happened”, guess what was first to be dropped?!

Guess who has gone through about 8 math programs over the course of her 19 years of homeschooling?!

If you guessed “math” to the first question and “ME” for the second, you are right!

I thought for sure it was more like TEN math programs, but here’s the line-up:

Bob Jones Math (kindergarten)

A Beka Math (first grade–didn’t even finish unit one!!!  I am NOT an A Beka Mom!)

Saxon Math for 2nd grade (we did get half-way through that one…)

Back to Bob Jones Math for 3rd grade (I think we actually finished that one…)

Miquon Math (that was fun!)

Math-U-See–loved it!   For awhile, anyway…

Developmental Math–the older girls appreciated this one more.   The smaller booklets to work through weren’t so intimidating!  However, it does get pricey.

Mastering Mathematics–one I looked at when I first started and wish I had just went with it–I probably wouldn’t have changed so much!  We have been doing this for several years now and have overall really liked it.

But now….. ;)

I have found what I believe is THE math program, especially for more relaxed “math-as-real-life” moms!

Introducing……Math on the Level!

Let me say right up front–this is not a “take it out of the box and hand it to your child” type of program.  And it seems pricey until you realize– it is a one time purchase!  That’s right, NO workbooks, NO consumables!

I am just learning this myself, but so far, I am really impressed and decided to keep it after my 60-day trial period was up.  That’s right, you get SIXTY days to try it out, not just 30!  When I was reading testimonies like “You couldn’t pay me to give it back!” and “I teach all three of my children in half an hour”, I was ready to try it!

I actually had Susannah look it over at first and explain a lot to me as I was in the middle of another project I needed to give much of my brain power to!  She is going to help me by teaching math, so I felt she should feel comfortable with it.  She really likes it!  And as I am spending more time with the materials, I do, too!

The overview is very readable and understandable.  Carlita Boyles is a homeschool mom and developer of Math on the Level.  Here’s what the Introduction says about the development of MOTL:

“The Math on the Level teaching approach was developed over many years as Carlita taught her own children at home.  At first, she started out each year trying to use a textbook for homeschool math instruction, but each time she became frustrated with the textbook, put it aside, and used her own ideas to successfully teach her children.  After a few years, she gave up on textbooks altogether and developed what would ultimately become the Math on th Level teaching approach, teaching children at their own level of maturation, focusing on practical family life activities, and reviewing topics on a daily 5-A-Day paper.

“In early 2006, Carlita was approached by several homeschooling moms who asked her to write a math curriculum so they could use her teaching approach.  After prayerful consideration, John and Carlita decided to take on the challenge.  This project grew into an extended effort in which both worked together, blending their backgrounds in education and engineering to produce Math on the Level.”

I really love this approach!  It actually validates the “real life learning” math we’ve been doing, and gives me a way to “document it”, without making my children copy and copy and copy a bunch of problems.

I’ll give you a quick overview of what’s ahead, and then, because I am still in the “learning stages” myself, I plan to share some each Friday about how it is working for us!

Okay, first off, you have a concept chart where you can go through and see where your child needs to start.   And it starts in the very beginning…things like “Beginning Counting” and “One-to-One Correspondence”.

Let’s say you get close to where your child is, but aren’t exactly sure if they really know one-digit multiplication or not.  You would then create a 5-a-Day review paper (she has LOTS of ideas so you don’t always have to use your brain to come up with some!) that would include that concept.  If your child breezed through it, then you would mark it as learned.  If not, you would mark that as a concept to teach.

(I was going to link to a page I thought that showed this concept chart, but alas, MOTL is not coming up for some reason!)

What are 5-A-Day review papers?  That is where your children will review concepts they already know.  Although there are only 5 problems (at all levels!), those 5 problems could end up covering 19 concepts!

For example, let’s say one review problem is:

Is is < , =  or > ?  Fill in the blank.

1.802 ÷ 0.53   _____   7 1/4 – 3 3/4

You are covering math symbols, dividing decimals, subtracting mixed numbers (like denominators), but since one answer is in decimal form and the other in fractions, the child will need to convert the fraction to a decimal and compare the decimals. 

Isn’t that great?!  And the best part is, as I said, she has pages of problems you can draw from!  Yeah!

There is the overview book (in a binder), which really explains things pretty well.  I would say if you have either 2-3 hours to just sit down with it all, or have half an hour or so a day for a week, you would get this and be able to go with it.  Actually less–I spent maybe an hour, read most of the overview book and have enough of a grasp to get started!

The binder with the overview also has record keeping forms, and once you decide to keep MOTL and register with them, you will get a download link to where you could even keep their records on the computer! 

I bought the complete set, so I also have 6 spiral bound books:

 ~Operations (+ – ×  ÷ )


~Money and Decimals

~Geometry & Measurements

~Math Resources (Charts, Graphs & Set Theory, Word Problems, Math Dictionary, How to Memorize, Memorizing Math Facts)

~Math Adventures (Cooking, Using Money, Travel Time, Games, Math Vocabulary, Unit Studies)

Each of these books are color coded in the Concept chart, which is really nice! 

My goal this next week is to get fine-tuned where my younger set are in this book.   Of course Noah and Isaiah are very beginners, so they will be easy! ;)  

This program is billed as Pre-K to Pre-Algebra, and that is really about all we need.  Yes, I know you are supposed to do higher math.  Did you know I got the Algebra II award in high school 32 years ago, and it hasn’t made me a better person, wife, mother, or Christian?!

I’m not knocking higher math, I just think it’s interesting that now everybody needs it.   I have one daughter that wanted to do Geometry, so I bought her Patty Paper Geometry.  Yes, it’s an introductory program.  But it is all she needs at this point. 

I have another daughter that was overwhelmed with math.  So for “higher math” she is doing a consumer math (remember that? Do they even do that in public schools anymore?!).

Math in Everyday Life

Teacher’s Edition  (pretty much just has answers)

I will say that this text has a bit of an overkill on some of the forms, so I do not make my daughter do it 12 times or whatever they have her doing!

I also have her do only 1 internet activity–there is more to life than working on math all day! ;)

If my daughters were to need higher math (meaning algebra, geometry, etc.) I would probably invest in Teaching Textbooks.   They have math at all levels down to 3rd grade.  If you want something they can pretty much do on their own (with the computer) then this is the program for you.  Personally, I would prefer the Math on the Level approach for younger years, even into “middle school”, with consumer math for high school, Teaching Textbooks for algebra, et al.

One other possibility for “consumer math” that another daughter did, was Dave Ramsey’s Foundations for Personal Finance  .  The HomeSchool Buyer’s Co-op did have this as a special recently–I’m not sure if it’s still on or not.  That’s how I got it–my daughter loved the dvd presentations!

I hope this gives you a glimpse of some good resources, and please stay tuned–I promise, whatever else I write about on Fridays, I will give you updates on how Math on the Level is going!  :D

(And hopefully they’ll back online SOON!)

Have a blessed weekend!

My girls have a few new items on their Etsy shop, if you want to check them out, PLUS a Valentine’s Day coupon!  Click here!

Fabulous Family Friday!

Friday, May 28th, 2010




This Friday, I am going to focus a bit more on the homeschooling end of things.

When people ask “what kind” of schooling I do, I jokingly say we do “Real Life School”!   ;)

We are definitely more on the relaxed end, and I do like some Charlotte Mason things, although I am not good about implementing a full CM schooling style.

Maybe I can say it’s “eclectic”?!  :)

12 years ago I reached a crisis in my homeschooling–only 7 years into it!!!  I had just gotten off bedrest during the first trimester of my pregnancy with daughter #6 (Rebekah) when we found out Anna-Pie (#5 sister) had an autoimmune disorder.   We had to have blood drawn three times a week (at a hospital 1/2 hour away) and go to a hematology clinic at least once a week (1 1/2 hours away)!!!  NOT conducive to “getting life back on track”!!!

In fact, I would say more years of our homeschooling journey have had major interruptions to them than not!

Which is why we went more relaxed!  LOLOL!

Seriously, as things calmed down a bit (only 1 clinic run every other week and one blood draw a week!), I started researching some options on homeschooling.  I was actually researching Charlotte Mason, but got on a side trail into Lifestyle of Learning by Marilyn Howshall.   Through the generous gift of a sister-in-the-Lord, I was able to purchase Marilyn’s 4 book set on Wisdom’s Way of Learning (it used to be one big book).  The booklets were just the right size for reading on the road and in clinics, as well as resting at home.  (Although I was off bedrest, I was exhausted from the emotional roller coaster of Anna’s disorder!)

Those booklet revolutionized my thinking about home education!  

I also found Barb Shelton at that time, and her website has SO much in it!  I was later able to purchase her JumpStart Navigator, and eventually her Guide-A-Log for a season of re-education for me.

Marilyn’s books are available as e-books now.   If you need refreshed, I highly recommend them! 

I will warn you, though, that they will make you think!  I actually read some of them FIVE times!  No kidding!  It’s not that it’s hard to read or understand, but it challenges the “school” paradigm we all have.

Here is a link to Marilyn’s books–WWOL #1 is towards the bottom of page 1, the other three are on the next page.  There is a button to click on for more details under each book.   Homeschool Oasis: Marilyn Howshall’s books.

You could spend a loooooong time reading at Barb Shelton’s site, too!    There is a LOT there, but all worth reading!   You don’t have to buy her Guide-a-Log, (the articles are on the website) but I found it was nice to have it in print so I wasn’t tied to the computer (nor do I like reading books on the computer if I can avoid it!). 

You don’t have to do any of this!  But I found it very helpful in rethinking what education really is. 

It actually helped me go back to why we started homeschooling in the first place–to have our children’s hearts.  A “good education” is a by-product, not the goal.  But when you’re in the throes of actually doing it, it’s so easy to get caught up in scope and sequences!   And it doesn’t help when other homeschoolers (and suspicious parents, relatives, neighbors, total strangers) ask you questions like, “Do they know how to read?” or “Do they know their multiplication tables?” or ” Do they know the capital of Liechtenstein?”  (It’s Vaduz, in case you need to know!  Aren’t we glad we have Wikipedia now?!)

All of a sudden we feel called on the carpet, inadequate, or, if our little darlings know all the above, we might feel a bit superior and prideful!!!

Now, there’s nothing wrong with being proud of your kids, nor of their knowing some basic facts.  

But I remind you–if you are a Christian called to homeschool, those things are NOT your goal.

Remember Matthew 6:33?   “But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” 

That applies to home education, too!

How many times do we let Bible stories, hymn and chorus singing, and other wonderful spiritual pursuits go because we are “behind” in math?  or language arts?

I am going to be very, very real with you.  In our now 18 years of homeschooling, we have hardly ever “finished books” by the end of a school year.    We have hardly ever “covered” every single subject in a year’s time.   There have been years that math got left in the dust of chaos.  (It’s always the first to get chucked in a crisis!  :o )

Yet, we are about to graduate daughter #3.   Do they know everything the public school teaches?  No.   But there are some things the public school doesn’t teach, that we have decided are important.  (Like, milking goats!  *smile* )

I have been amazed, especially in light of the past several years of my husband’s serious accident, then my dad’s brain disease that was debilitating him, accelerating to his death 2 1/2 years ago, helping my mom sell her home and move, a miscarriage and then chicken pox and whooping cough (both in one school year!), and now my mom’s death just recently–that my girls have learned so much more than I would have thought!   *I* was not in charge the whole time–I couldn’t be.   But they stepped up to the plate and for the most part, learned everything that was important.

My “homeschool philosophy”, if you will, is this:

“Hear God.  Trust God.  Listen to and obey your husband.”

Too many times, God is asking us to pull back and we, in our fear of what “they” will say (be “they” family, other homeschoolers or the state) say no.  Then we wonder why we hate homeschooling and how can we spend more quality time than just planning lessons.   And grading them.  And managing all the paper!

I do live in a state that doesn’t have oppressive homeschool laws.  But even if I didn’t, I would seek God for a way to focus on Him and His Kingdom, and still meet the state requirements.  We make it too hard on ourselves!   I believe it was Jonathan Lindvall that said we often go waaaay beyond what we really need to.  Yes, we want to be above reproach, but really…..if “being above reproach” means killing your children’s love of learning, having no time to snuggle and read books aloud, or not having “time” to sing hymns each day because of someone else’s agenda…..if it means you feel you spend more time being a “teacher” than a wife, mommy and homemaker…..then perhaps we are doing more than the Lord Himself requires.  And maybe we aren’t doing what He does want us to do. 

I also hear moms say, “Well, my husband requires I do this much.”   That may be true, and you need to be under his authority.  BUT–again, I also know many women who whine and fuss or are very fearful, so the husband may be “requiring” so “much” because of the wife’s fears, to help her have a tangible list to go by, so to speak.

And I can’t think that too many husbands, if a wife were to pray about and then make a gracious appeal, would be unwilling to try something for a season.

Here are some of the BIG things I learned from my “Season of Re-Education”.

One, when life is in chaos, or you don’t know where to start, take each child that is school-age (if you are in a crisis or overwhelmed, you do NOT need to do “pre-school”–get them lots of paper and crayons and colored pencils!), and focus on the #1 need education-wise.  Yes, I know, BOTH math and language arts are important!    But pick just ONE.   It may be different for each child.   My girls were almost 12, 10, 7, 5, 15 months and #6 on the way when I did this.   So the first two, we focused on language arts.   The 7 year old focused on learning to read (she was a later bloomer).  The 5 year old focused on obedience!!!!!  The 15 month old learned to play nearby safely  (with her “bumper buddy”–a seizure helmet to help protect her head from any bumps–she had a platelet disorder which meant she could hemorrhage easily!). 

Did I worry?  Yes!  

But I kept coming back to knowing God had led us into this.  I had the full support of my husband, who has been a big advocate for LIFE learning, anyway! 

Surprise of surprises!  It worked!   As I “deschooled” my thinking, and started to relax, I started seeing how much they really were doing in life that was educational.   The 12 year old was helping me in the kitchen–she told me later that fractions made so much more sense after learning to cook!  Especially when we had to double so many recipes!  

I remember the 7 year old wanting to know what a baby opossum was called.  Now, this was in the early days of the internet, Google was not yet invented, and the search engines didn’t help us much.   Neither did the encyclopedia.   We finally found out they’re called—opossums!!!   Ha!  

But do you see that we learned together?   I showed her how we look things up in the encyclopedia (even though she couldn’t read well yet, I just introduced it to her so she would know why those books were there!).   Guess who is the family researcher today?!  (Oh, and her late blooming didn’t hurt her any–in fact, there was a time I had to limit her reading!)

Those are just a few incidences, but you can bet they gave me confidence to continue pursuing this “Lifestyle of Learning”.   It eventually morphed into what we call a “Real Life Learning” style.  

We have some things we try to do together, but I let them pursue their interests and try to key “subjects” to those interests.   We also have “seasons” of science or history.   True confessions here:  I used to worry because we weren’t “doing” much science.  I guess I forgot that taking care of animals is a whole science by itself!   Animal husbandry!   My guess is my oldest wouldn’t have passed the local school’s biology exam, but she has delivered baby goats (including “stuck” ones!), watched three of her siblings be born, and actually knows waaaaay more than would be on that exam, anyway!  It’s called, “Practical Science”!  

In the past few years, my Language-Artsy-History-Loving daughters have gotten more into—-science!  :D

So, what was it I was so worried about?!  

I hope I haven’t bored you with all this!   I know I basically am only touching on the one topic, but it is near and dear to my heart.   I worried SO much in the early years when “life” kept happening and ruining all my well-laid school plans!    And now I see the fruit of focusing on the important things, and wish I hadn’t wasted so much time worrying and fretting!

Because I hear young mamas, even mamas just a bit behind me, worrying about it, too, I thought I’d share my journey and let you know you can–




I’ve done enough for all of you!  ;)




If you just are scared that your children will grow up illiterate and unable to do basic math, just head over to my girls’ blog, and see what they do—sewing, tatting, crocheting, knitting (much of which they taught themselves!), photography, writing (including Miss Research who did NOT like writing prosey stuff at all for language arts….guess who is one of the two main “bloggers” over there?!  *smile*). 




Here is one other website I can recommend–I’ll be honest–I don’t follow everything there, and you can turn all of it into drudge-work if you focus on “getting it all done”.  The website is Simply Charlotte Mason.  A wonderfully encouraging site, and they even have a forum over there.  I don’t get on as much anymore, but last time I was there it was very helpful and encouraging!



They have a lot of great resources there, too.  And they’re reasonably priced!


I would highly recommend you read through “Making the Transition” before going to all the meat-and-potatoes of the scope and sequence!    And as you make that transition, if you feel that is where the Lord would have you go, please don’t feel rushed to “get onto the next stage”.  


I know there are other good CM sites, but most of them scared me!  SCM is totally user-friendly, and to me, much less daunting, especially if you have several children. 



As in all things–please pray about what the Lord would have you do.   He may have you follow SCM for some things, yet not others.  He may have you just forego science for awhile (remember, they will “catch up”!)    That’s why it’s important, in all the cacaphony of homeschooling voices out there (including mine!), to seek HIS face first and foremost. 


I no longer feel it is my job to teach  my children everything–I can’t!   And neither do the schools–we all have our gaps.   There’s always more we wish we could have done.

So my requireds are boiled down to three things:

1. Give them the basics (the 3 Rs)

2. Train their character so they can later apply themselves to learn areas I may have had to let go.

3. Nurture their love of learning so they can go on and learn anything they want to!

A note on #1–we focused on learning to read for the first 2-3 years of “school”.   Oh, we might do some “real life math” (Ruth Beechik’s books are wonderful!), but phonics/reading was/is the main focus.   Then the next few years might be a little more on math, with some writing (expressing themselves) focus.   We typically  have hit the math harder in late elementary/middle school ages.   Yes, believe me, they will catch up!  I remember years ago a young man telling us that his parents bought a 6th grade math text and just had them work slowly through it during “elementary years”.   And he and his siblings went on to do higher math just fine!  

ALL of this is irrelevent if you are not focusing on THE NUMBER ONE PRIORITY–Matthew 6:33!   There are many days we “only” get Bible time in.    I am amazed at how He honors us honoring His Word!    My favorite “homeschooling verse” is Isaiah 54:13:

“And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of they children.”   (and of mama, too! )

I know this is long already, but I thought I’d finish with some resources we use that I like.  This is not an exhaustive list!!!!  But just some ideas!

Bible:  Grapevine Studies  

Phonics:  Happy Phonics

I do not use Explode the Code–just the games!   My younger set loves this!  

Language Arts:

My younger girls like Language Lessons  from Queen Homeschool Supply.   My older two who are still in school didn’t care for them as much at the secondary level.   I have friends whose children love them at that level!  Just depends, I guess!    Neither of my oldest two enjoy doing a lot of creative writing, so that might be part of it.   Language Lessons are great for a gentle, doable Charlotte Mason style languge arts program.   I like a lot of stuff from Queen Homeschool Supply!

My other two “likes” for language arts are:

Writing to God’s Glory by Jill Bond


Andrew Pudewa’s Excellence in Writing

I am only using the teacher’s syllabus for this one as I am borrowing it from a friend.  Language arts is my “thing” so I get it!    The dvds are great, though, and I am a little familiar with them having borrowed another friend’s awhile back.

Math:   We have used Mastering Mathematics for several years now.   My younger girls want to try Math Makes Sense!  (you have to have the ! at the end or it’s a whole different curriculum!).     We might give it a try–a friend has used it, so I got a chance to look at it, and it looks good!  I have been quite happy with Mastering Mathematics, but I’m willing to try this new one.   We have been through several math programs–especially the first 10 years of homeschooling!   I know what I don’t like!  LOL!

Math Makes Sense!  had a different series that wasn’t segregated into the different operations.  I’m not sure if it’s still available, but I’m going to try to order that one.  It was $32 per level.   If I find out, I’ll post it here! The other website that used to carry them no longer does.  Unfortunately, the website I linked to doesn’t have any samples. 

Simply Charlotte Mason has a wonderful series called “Your Business Math” for applied basic math.  There is a Pet Store, Book Store and a Sports Store.   One of my daughters did the Pet Store and really enjoyed it!  And you can download a free sample!

World History–Diana Waring!   Whether you just listen to her CDs or get the whole curriculum, put out by Answers in Genesis (I sprang for it, even the Teacher’s Edition–you have to know I have an allergy to Teacher Editions!!!), you can’t go wrong!  My children LOVE these!    We call her the female version of Little Bear Wheeler! 

Science:   We love Apologia!     Susannah actually used Jeannie Fulbright’s Botany in 10th grade–I know it’s “supposed” to be elementary, but the detail she added to it qualified for high school in my book!

Disclaimer–only one of my daughters did all the experiments in Exploring Creation with General Science.  Others just read through it.  We have the Biology book (just in case we have to take that local school Biology test ;) ) but I don’t plan to make them do all the labs.   For one, we dissect about 150 chickens every year!   So that should count, right?  HA!


Next week I’ll share a “real life”  schooling experience we had several years ago!  (I wanted to share this week, but this has already become a book!)

Enjoy your children, enjoy learning together, and….