January 2005 Newsletter


January 1, 2005

Dear Oklahoma Homeschool Subscribers,

Happy New Year! Can you believe it's 2005?! Time is just going way too fast. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas holiday and a nice rest from homeschooling.

Now it's time to get back to work. Most homeschool moms find that January is one of the toughest months in which to homeschool. Winter blahs set in, curriculum isn't working the way you thought it would, the kids can't get outside to play, and the holidays have gotten you totally off schedule. This is a good time for reevaluating and restructuring.

1. If one of your textbooks isn't working, try something else. It happens to the best of us. Better to fix it now, then spend the whole year on something that isn't working. Sell the book that's not working and cut your losses.

2. If you find that you are way behind schedule, maybe your schedule is too busy. Are there some activities you can cut out? Many homeschool moms involve their children in so many activities, they can't get their school work done! Limit your children to one weekly, outside of the home activity each and/or try to schedule all your kids' activities on one day.

3. If you're just plain uninspired, read a good book about homeschooling. A good one to keep in the bathroom for a quick read is Things We Wish We'd Known by Bill & Diana Waring. This book will inspire you and give you some fresh ideas for the new year.

I hope you enjoy this issue of the Oklahoma Homeschool newsletter. Have a wonderful New Year!



Oklahoma Homeschool Newsletter, December 2005 (Oklahoma Edition)


What's New on the Oklahoma Homeschool Website?

1. Brand New! Historical Fiction -Adventures at Spiro Mounds by Cindy Downes is a fun-to-read, adventure story of two orphans from New York who move to Lake Tenkiller, Oklahoma, to live with their slightly-eccentric Uncle Wil, an inventor by trade, his cat, Puppy Dog, and a robot housekeeper named Martha. In this adventure, they time travel back to the year 1934 in Spiro, Oklahoma, and end up in the middle of a plot to steal artifacts from the Spiro site. Your kids will have fun learning about the ancient moundbuilders and the excavation of Spiro Mounds by the Pocola Mining Company in 1930's. It is written as a read-aloud for students in grades 1-5.

Here are some excerpts from reviews I received from homeschooling families:

It kept their attention with a mystery environment, but included facts about Oklahoma history - basically teaching them without realizing they were learning” (Rachel O)

I liked how historical things were added to a very modern story (gadgets, PDS's, robots, etc.). It combined the best of both worlds to interest children.”(Kimmie K)

Loved the cliffhanger ending and they want to read the next book . . . They were reminded of the moundbuilders from our Oklahoma history studies. They did not know about some of the artifacts recovered. We have not been to see the Spiro Mounds, but now they are interested.” (Pam G)

I like the way it is upbeat, not boring.” (Joetta W)

I have published Adventures at Spiro Mounds into booklet format with simple, color and black & white illustrations throughout. It is bound in a two-color, card-stock cover. Price: $3.99 plus shipping ($ 1.95) and tax ($. 36, OK residents only). Total cost: $ 6.30 ($5.94 out of state). To purchase, go to my website at: http://www.oklahomahomeschool.com/AdvSpiroMounds.html or mail a check payable to Cindy Downes, to 1608 E. Tacoma St., Broken Arrow, OK 74012. Allow 2-3 weeks for delivery. Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.

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Oklahoma History Resources:

1. Oklahoma State Symbols Report Form - see Free Forms below.

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Teaching Tips - Mathematics

Genesis 15:5  “And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.”

It’s difficult to encourage your children to study mathematics if you can’t give them a good reason for doing so. Unfortunately, very few of us know a good reason. Although most of us will agree that a solid foundation in basic arithmetic is essential, mathematics such as trigonometry and calculus seem to be irrelevant to all but the “elite few.”

Most of us lack “a good reason” to study mathematics because of the way we were educated. We were taught in classrooms, using traditional textbooks, where the goal was to memorize formulas, plug numbers into the formulas, and get the “right” answers on a test. Mathematics had little relevance to real life. As John Taylor Gatto says in his book, A Different Kind of Teacher, “… the work in classrooms isn’t significant work; it fails to satisfy real needs pressing on the individual; it doesn’t contribute to solving problems encountered in actual life.”

There were periods in history, however, when people knew “a good reason” to study mathematics. Between the 16th and 18th century, scholars studied mathematics “with the conviction that the biblical God had designed the universe in a rational and orderly fashion; in fact, so orderly that it could be described mathematically.” (James Nickel, Mathematics: Is God Silent?) Men like Kepler, Newton, Pascal, and Euler, “had no question in their minds that God had fashioned a rational, orderly universe” and that “He (God) had given man alone the capacity to discover and to put to use its most intimate secrets.” (Gale Christianson, In the Presence of the Creator.)

We can help the future generations remember and obey God’s mandates by giving them a mathematics education taught from God’s perspective. Simply having them complete a textbook, containing an occasional scripture or two, is not the answer. Our teaching must not only instruct them in basic arithmetic, but also enable them to see how mathematics can “describe the wonders of God’s creation, reveal the invisible attributes of God, serve to aid man in fulfilling God’s mandate of dominion, and assist God’s people in fulfilling God’s mandate of worldwide evangelism.” (James Nickel, Mathematics: Is God Silent?)

Try setting aside one day per week to use some of the following ideas in lieu of a math textbook. By doing so, you may raise up a future Isaac Newton. Your child may be the next one who discovers a mathematical principle that provides a better way of life for God’s people or creates a new tool to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

1. Show them how mathematics reveals the wonders of God’s creation and the invisible attributes of God. The best resource I have found to help parents in this area is, Mathematics: Is God Silent? by James Nickel. It is not an easy read so I recommend you read it and explain it’s highlights to your children. You can purchase this from Amazon.com or directly from the publisher, Ross House Books, PO Box 67, Vallecito, CA 95251. For your children, look for resources that explain the mathematical structure of music. (Did you know that all musical notes can be described in a mathematic formula except those sounds that are not pleasing to the ear?) Teach them about Fibonacci’s sequence and discuss how it relates to God’s creation. Read about the “Divine Proportion” and show them how it relates to patterns in nature and in art. Read and discuss infinity and relate it to our infinite God. Discuss how God is unchangeable and how mathematics echoes this with it’s unchangeable laws. Some resources for the above:

2. Show them how mathematics progressed through history. Read them books about the history of math in terms children can understand. The Wonderful World of Mathematics by Lancelot Hogben is easy to read and colorfully illustrated. As most books written about the history of math, it does include a brief reference to evolution. First published in 1955 as, Man Must Measure. Unfortunately, it is out of print - check used bookstores. Well worth locating. Check your library.

3. Read to them biographies of famous mathematicians and show them how Godly people used math to subdue the earth and advance God’s kingdom. Read biographies of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Euler, and Sir Isaac Newton. Find out what motivated them to learn math and what their discoveries did to advance God’s kingdom. Examples:

4. Show them how math affects real life. Give them real life applications to math. For example: when studying fractions, give them cooking classes, build a treehouse, or do other real life activities that depend on the use of fractions. Read books that show real people using math. Example: She Does Math, Real Life Problems from Women on the Job by Marla Parker includes brief autobiographies of several mathematicians and describes how they use math in their careers. It also includes problems for the readers to solve. 7th+

5. Give them a good foundation in basic math facts — the tools they need to go to the next level. Use their learning style as much as possible to drill facts:

6. Give them music lessons. It has been proven that music lessons help your children to learn math. You can do this inexpensively at home with resources such as the James Bastien Piano course which are available at most music supply houses.

7. Help them understand math concepts, not just work formulas. Read books to them about math such as Angles are Easy as Pie by Robert Froman, which is an introduction to angles for young readers; and Fraction Fun by David A. Adler, which is an introduction to fractions for young readers. Other titles by these authors as just as good. Check your library.

8. Teach them how to think logically. Give your children practice in logic. In the early history of our country, junior high age students read books such as Pascal’s Penseés and Payne’s Common Sense. Now these are only read at ivy league colleges such as Harvard and Yale. A good resource of logic instruction for students who are not ready for Penseés or Common Sense is Critical Thinking Books. I especially recommend Think A Minutes, Level A Book 1 .

9. Let them explore math as their interest arises. As a child, Pascal was homeschooled by his father who believed that natural curiosity should lead children in their study. Consequently, Pascal was allowed to spend hours reading on his own and studying what interested him. Through his reading, he became interested in geometry, and before he was 12 years old, he mastered 32 theorems of Euclid’s Elements without his father’s knowledge or instruction. At age 18, he invented a calculating machine just because he wanted to help his father with his tax work. Why not give your children time to explore their interests? As they come across something in their textbook which interests them, allow them to put the textbook aside and explore that interest.

10. Help them be good stewards of the math ability they have received. God has given each of our children different gifts and abilities. Your role as their parent is to help them identify these gifts and then help them to develop them for God’s glory. Not all children will be future Sir Isaac Newtons. Stretch those who show a mathematical gifting, but don’t force a future businessman to master Euclid’s Elements. “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10-NIV).

For more information on teaching Math, check my website: http://www.oklahomahomeschool.com/teachMath.html

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FREE Forms:

These forms are available free to Oklahoma Homeschool subscribers only, until January 15th. To access these forms, click on http://oklahomahomeschool.com/subscribers (or copy and paste it into your browser bar). When the password protect input form pops up, enter the following (case sensitive):

For User ID, enter: (For subscribers only-check your email newsletter)

For Password, enter: (For subscribers only-check your email newsletter)

After you have entered the user ID and password correctly, Index of/subscribers will pop up. Click on subscribers.html which will open the web page where these forms can accessed. You must have the free Acrobat Reader software (available at www.adobe.com) installed to print these forms.

  • Math Checklist - Excerpt from The Checklist. Use this form to keep track of your child's elementary math skills. Available only to Oklahoma Homeschool subscribers.
  • My State Symbols Report Form. Use this form for your Oklahoma History Study. Available first to Oklahoma Homeschool subscribers. Later it will be added to my Homeschool Forms Page.
  • Oklahoma State Symbols Report Form. Use this form for your Oklahoma History Study. Available only to Oklahoma Homeschool subscribers.


Teaching Math: Curriculum Recommendations & Fun Stuff

I. Math U See. This is the best math curriculum available for the Kinethetic, Visual, and Auditory learner. . For students that excel in math, a better choice would be Saxon math.

2. Calc for the Clueless by Bob Miller. This book is not a traditional textbook but you will learn calculus! It's easy to read and understand. Why didn't I have this in school?!

3. Do you have a math wiz? Check out Calculus By and For Young People by Don Cohen. This curriculum is for ages 7 and up! He has an online course or you can purchase workbooks. Wow - even I could do calculus!

4. Has your child ever asked, "When are we ever gonna use this?" If so, here are some examples of using math in real life occupations (excerpt from When Are We Ever Gonna Use This? by Hal Saunders. Unfortunately, this is out of print.):

  • a. Fractions - Airplane Mechanic - The "aileron droop" of a certain plane must be adjusted to 7/8 inch plus or minus 1/4 inch. Given this leeway (called "tolerance"), what is the maximum droop allowed?
  • b. Decimals - Policeman - At the end of a working day, highway patrol officers must report the total amount of time spent performing certain types of tasks. During one 8-hour shift, an officer spent 45 minutes aiding vehicles in distress, 1-1/2 hours at the scene of an accident, and 2 hours 20 minutes writing tickets. To the nearest tenth of an hour, how much time was spent not performing these specific tasks?
  • c. Ratios & Proportions - Photographer - A chemical must be mixed in the ratio of 1 part chemical to 7 parts water. How many ounces of the chemical should be used to obtain a 2-quart mixture?
  • d. Percent - Dietician - A doctor prescribes a diet of 2500 calories per day for a patient. She specifies that 40% of the calories must be carbohydrates, 35% must be fat, and 25% must be protein. Compute the number of calories in each category.
    e. Geometry - Meteorologist - If one inch of rain falls on an acre, how many tons of water fall?
  • f. Algebra, linear equations - Political Campaign Manager - A political campaign manager in a small town must decide whether to purchase a bulk-rate permit for mailing campaign literature. The permit costs $50, and the bulk mailing rate is 16.7 cents per piece. If first-class postage is 25 cents per piece, how many pieces would have to be mailed to make the bulk rate more economical than first class?

5. Here's a fun idea to do for math. Cut out ten recipes from cooking magazines (the recipes must have the exact cooking or baking time included). Mount each recipe on a piece of tag board leaving 2-3" blank under the recipe. Draw two, clock faces (without hands) in the blank space under each recipe. On the first clock, draw in the hands to show when the item being cooked or baked was put into the oven. Laminate the card. After all the cards are prepare, have your child select a card, read the recipe, look at the time that the item was put into the oven, and then, using a wax crayon, draw the ending time on the second blank clock face. (Excerpt from Math Resources from Recyclables by Bonnie Mertzlufft. Unfortunately, also out of print. Buy used.)

6. Does your child like snacks? Try this idea for practicing multiplication. You will need seven pretzels. Lay the pretzels out and have your child count the number of pretzels. Then count the number of holes in one pretzel. Have him multiply to find out the total number of holes. If he gets the correct answer, he gets to eat the pretzel. After he eats that pretzel, start all over again with six pretzels. Great for break time! If you liked this idea, there are lots more in Math Snacks by Eliza Sorte.

7. If your child is artistic, try Math Art Projects by Carolyn Brunetto. Each art lesson is based on a math principle. For example, to learn about pyramids in geometry, your child will create a pyramid gift box; for graphing, your child will create a beaded wall hanging; and for fractions, your child will create a fraction sundae out of construction paper.

8. If your child is artistic, try "Math Art" by Carolyn Brunetto. Each art lesson is based on a math principle. For example, to learn about pyramids in geometry, your child will create a pyramid gift box; for graphing, your child will create a beaded wall hanging; and for fractions, your child will create a fraction sundae out of construction paper. (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0590963716/qid%3D1102802853/sr%3D11-1/ref%3Dsr%5F11%5F1/104-7343166-0959948).

9. Times Tales Deluxe - for additional practice and reinforcement of multiplication in lower elementary math education. See my website for Joetta's review: http://www.oklahomahomeschool.com/reviews.html. Check it out at: http://www.timestales.com/.

For more information on math curriculum suggestions, check out my webpage: http://www.oklahomahomeschool.com/MathCurrR.html

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Internet Resources for Math:

Art & Math:

The World of Escher, view an Escher collection (5th+): http://www.mathacademy.com/pr/minitext/escher/


Pattern Blocks: Exploring Fractions with Shapes. This is fun! 3rd+ http://arcytech.org/java/patterns/



Math Scavenger Hunt (1-6): http://www.teachersdesk.org/math_scav.html


M&M Math - Statistics (4th+): http://www.teachersdesk.org/mm_math.html



Mathematics Across the Curriculum. An "electronic bookshelf" of materials for teaching math in art, history, literature, & music, as well as science, engineering, & other disciplines traditionally associated with math. Topics include misleading averages, bar codes, crime statistics, DNA, data analysis, expert systems, gasoline, information theory, medical testing, music & computers, nutrition, polls, population growth, probability, remote sensing, SIDS, & vaccines. http://www.math.dartmouth.edu/~matc/eBookshelf/index.html

Mechanics, Linear Algebra and the Bicycle. In this module you will see how knowledge of basic mechanics and introductory linear algebra can be used to better understand many aspects of the bicycle. Grades 7th+. : http://links.math.rpi.edu/devmodules/bicycle/index.html (No, I did not write this. I only ride bikes. I don't study them!)

Balanced Assessments in Mathematics. FREE assessments for K-12: http://balancedassessment.concord.org/

Create a Graph. Make a bar, area, line, or pie graph online. FREE. http://nces.ed.gov/nceskids/graphing/

Learn how a coin gets minted on this fun site: http://www.usmint.gov/kids/index.cfm?fileContents=cartoons

Helping Your Child Learn Math

Learn about the history of time measurement: http://www.riverdeep.net/current/2000/11/113000_clocks.jhtml (lots of pictures)

Libraryvideo.com. Looking for a video to use in your units? This website includes a search engine that can be searched by subject or grade level. http://www.libraryvideo.com/ Do a search for math resources and you'll be surprised at what is available.


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Have a great day!

Cindy Downes

Website: http:www.oklahomahomeschool.com
Email: cindy@oklahomahomeschool.com

Have you seen The Checklist? It's a record keeper, a planning guide, and a K-12 Scope and Sequence created for Christian Home Educators: http://www.oklahomahomeschool.com/checklist.html

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Copyright © 2004 - by Cindy Downes