Thursday, June 15, 2006

"I Want To Be Smart"

Today, I was sitting in front of my computer, when my 5 year old daughter walked up to me and said, "I want to be smart. I want to be a scientist. Give me some homework. I want math worksheets!"

This daughter has been the most "unschooled" of all my children. While I am getting increasingly more structured with my 12 year older daughter, I am much less so with my youngest. When we first started homeschooling, I was very conscious of keeping up with the "Jones." My style was much more "school-at -home" with sitting at a desk and worksheets. I tried to match the aggressive program of our local basic-plus school.

After tormenting my oldest daughter with too much too soon, I realized that some of the things I was attempting to teach were developmentally inappropriate for her. I found that the material I tried in vain to teach when she was 5, 6, and 7 years old, she easily learned when she was 8, 9, and 10 years old.

So for this third time around, I decided to wait to do formal instruction until my daughter showed signs of being ready. I took "I want a math worksheet" as a sign.

So, I did what I always do when I need something. I went to google and typed in "kindergarten math worksheet free." I found a very nice website that listed many resources. Under the heading of math worksheets, it linked to this website. That site offered individualized worksheets. You can choose things like counting with stars, dots, fish, cats, as well as choosing font size and number range.

I quickly generated a few counting worksheets. My 5 year old quickly completed it and said it was much too easy and could I give her a harder one. I was please to see that she could write her numbers properly, except an occasional 6 written in reverse. The addition worksheet was also completed easily. After the third worksheet, she wandered off to do something else. I was very pleased. She demonstrated that she knew her counting numbers and could do simple addition.

What I liked most is that she wanted to do it and that she had picked it up without tiresome formal lessons. I use the word tiresome because they are tiresome for me.

This year we did very little in the way of formal lessons. We played games that used numbers. I included her in math activities designed to help her older sister with multiplication tables. Henry does a weekly allowance with the girls in which he helps them count out the money that goes for quick cash, tithing, long term savings, and short term savings. (Note: this is the Money Doesn't Grow on Trees program.) The 5 year old also plays some educational games on the computer that use numbers.

While I wouldn't advocate this approach for my 12 year old, I think it is great for kindergarten and first grade. As for my 12 year old, I think it is important to still leave time for discovery learning, while incorporating more structured lessons.

For example, we have place mats that list all the presidents of the United States with some biographical information. During dinner, we make a game out of reciting the presidents and the years they served from memory. So far, I can get the presidents in order to Ulysses S. Grant. I only know the dates of service for the first three or so.

By the way, does anyone know of a song that reviews the presidents of the United States? I'm sure somebody already thought that up to make it easier to remember.

It's time for gymnastics so I'm off to play chauffeur. I'm one of those homeschool moms who do more driving than "teaching."

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, ,


Queen of Carrots said...

I believe you can sing the presidents to "Ten Little Indians." Not that I can actually do it off the top of my head. I'd better brush up, but I'm kind of relying on my husband, who used to even know the vice presidents backwards!

Janine Cate said...

Wow. We haven't even thought about vice presidents yet.

Anonymous said...

Back in 3rd grade, my music teacher taught us “The President’s Song.” It is the tune of Yankee Doodle with each president’s last name (in order) as the lyrics.

That has helped me so much in history to place events viz. a particular administration. Of course, time has passed, so I’ve had to enter into a second verse for all the Presidents since. 1st verse = Washington through Coolidge; 2nd = Hoover through “George W. Bush” (It ends nicely if you slow down and say the whole name.)


ElizabethDemeusy said...

Most of my American History trivia I learned by watching Animaniacs as a high school senior (I kid you not. This is why public school is to be avoided).

I learned the state capitals and names of all the countries, so I just thought I'd google to see if they have a presidents song. Lo and behold! THEY DO! Here's the link to the words

I'll see if I can find an MP3 somewhere. These songs are superbly clever, so you may be interested in buying one of their albums. :-)

Janine Cate said...


TJ said...

I just found this post because of the unschooling carnival from A Day In Our Lives.

Anyway, Ron Clark has a rap about the presidents. If you go to his website ( you can find his stuff for sale, he has a cd of things.

They just did a tv movie about him.

Anonymous said...

Why did you not choose public schooling? Was it a problem with the actual school or was it other problems? Unless there is something actually preventing children from attending school, I do not think homeschooling is good option. School only puropose is not to learn concepts like math and english but to be in an environment that prepares you for real life. In school children are exposed to things that they never would be at home. Furthermore, in real life these children will grow up and need to use skills, like leadership and time management. As well as how to work with uncooperative people. These characteristics can not properly be honed at home. I am sure there are some benefits to homeschooling, but I'm just curious as to why you chose to keep your children at home.

Henry Cate said...

Public schools do a poor job of teaching academics, social skills and character development.

A 1983 Federal Education Study reported:

"Each generation of Americans has outstripped its parents in education, in literacy, and in economic attainment. For the first time in the history of our country, the educational skills of one generation will not surpass, will not equal, will not even approach, those of their parents."

Public schools do a poor job of teaching social skills as teachers often have little control and children are teaching children how to survive in a Lord of the Flies environment.

Studies have found that children who have been homeschooled do just fine as adults.

I don't have anything against public schools. I would be happy if they were better. But we've found homeschooling to be a superior option.