Aby Rinella: Hey, thanks for having me. Excited to be here.
Yvette Hampton: Yeah, of course, this is so much fun. I love answering questions about homeschooling. So, next up is the question,
What are the best online homeschool Curriculum options?
And that’s a great question because a lot of people do stuff online. So, I’m going to let you tackle this one first, Aby.
Aby Rinella: Okay. This is a huge question right now as parents are thinking, “We want to bring our kids home, we all just got thrown into this online distance learning that we just… We’ve all just experienced. We’re considering keeping our kids home, and so this is what we know, so this is what we want to do, is this online thing.” So, before we actually give you some actual curriculum options for that, there is a difference that you need to know. There’s a huge difference between online public school, which is huge right now, and privately funded, home-based, parent led education options.
With publicly funded online homeschool options, your kids are at home, and they’re doing online school, but it is public. It is government school. It is publicly funded government school. There are regulations. You don’t have the freedoms with homeschool that you have. So, we just want to make a very clear difference. These programs include K12, public distance learning programs, online charter schools, and the “distance learning” programs that schools have instituted since the COVID-19 shutdowns. This would also include hybrid public school and charter programs (part-time classroom, part time at home). Many of these programs are free, and in some areas, parents even get money for supplies and activities, but with that money comes government oversight and control over what materials and curriculum options you can choose. For more on this subject, I highly recommend reading what HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) has to say about charter schools and public-school-at-home programs, here, here, and here.
Side note: We recommend every homeschooling family keep an active HSLDA membership, at all times. These guys are homeschool heroes!
Aby Rinella: And then there is, what we’re assuming that you’re asking, or hoping that you’re asking, which is online resources for privately funded, home-based, parent-led education. And that’s what we here at Schoolhouse Rocked, that’s what Yvette and I do. That’s what we promote. That’s what we love. Because with privately funded, home-based, parent-led education, you can teach and train your children’s heart in the Lord. You can point them to God and His Word in everything you teach. So, the great thing about that is there are still a ton of great online options. So as you’re looking for online homeschool curriculum options, and Yvette is going to give us a few options that are out there, but as you’re looking, really make sure that what you’re looking at is a Bible-based, true homeschool curriculum, that you don’t stumble onto a public school at-home, internet-based school. because they’re both out there.
Yvette Hampton: Yes.
Aby Rinella: And there are great options. So, Yvette, you have a list of some really awesome options.
FULL ONLINE HOMESCHOOL CURRICULM
Yvette Hampton: I do. I have a few, and I know that there are a whole lot more than this, but I’m just going to tell you some of the ones that I’m most familiar with and that I really trust. The first one is BJU, which is Bob Jones University.We have used some of their online science curriculum, and I really like it. As a matter of fact, we have had the privilege of going to BJU a couple of times, and getting a tour of their whole facility, and they are so incredibly intent on teaching everything from a Biblical worldview.
Aby Rinella: That’s awesome.
Yvette Hampton: And not only are they intent on doing that, but they are intent on doing everything with excellence. They have studios set up where they actually have teachers come in, and they teach in front of a screen, and you purchase the books and then you can purchase the videos to go along with the books and have that teacher teach, whether it’s science, or history, or language arts, they have foreign languages, they’ve got just a ton of different things. because then you can choose by subject. And they’re so well-done, very well-produced. The teachers are friendly and engaging, and they’re colorful. And so, my girls have really liked those videos. It’s been fun because I’ve gotten to actually see them record these videos in person.
Yvette Hampton: And their teachers are just as amazing in person as they are in front of the camera. They’re great. So, the website for that is BJUPressHomeschool.com. That’s where you can find out more about that.
Another one is Abeka. We have actually not used Abeka, but I know a lot of my friends who have used them really like them. And Abeka has been around forever. Since the dawn of time! I myself actually have used Abeka curriculum as a kid, because I went to a Christian school where we used Abeka. And so, I feel pretty comfortable saying that they are a trustworthy publisher, who is really putting out some really good, quality curriculum.
Aby Rinella: I agree.
Yvette Hampton: Biblical worldview curriculum. And so, you can check them out at abeka.com.
Aby Rinella: They also have a video series, so you can do online or video, or you can teach your kids with it. So, there’s a few options there as well.
Yvette Hampton: Many, many different options. And all of these companies, you can actually call and talk to their consultants and figure out what’s best for your family. You don’t have to do all subjects through them, you can just do some. Another one that we have used with our family, that I really like, is Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool.
Aby Rinella: I love that name.
Yvette Hampton: They have done a fantastic job. It’s funny, because you go on their website, and it’s not flashy, it’s not fancy, it’s very simple. It’s basically text, and there’s a little bit of artwork and stuff on there, but there are just different. You can search by grade or by subject, and everything is online, and it really is Easy Peasy. [chuckle]
Aby Rinella: So, are they online classes, or just resources online?
Yvette Hampton: Yes. Yes, to both.
Aby Rinella: Okay. [chuckle] They’ve got everything?
Yvette Hampton: Yeah. I did some of this with Lacy, she was third grade, she just finished third grade, and so I went to their third-grade language arts, and you can download, basically, their packet of language arts worksheets and things like that, which she really enjoys. She’s my worksheet girl, she thinks that’s fun. So, you can go on, download those. And then, for reading and stuff, it will have links to different things that you can read. And you do want to do it with your kids, because a lot of it is taking you to other websites, and there… I have not found anything that has compromised what we’ve seen at all, but of course, there’s always that…
Aby Rinella: Yes, absolutely.
Yvette Hampton: You never want to just put your kid in front of a computer with something like this and just say, “Go for it, kid,” and, “Good luck at what you click on.” But it’s fun to navigate through their website and it’s just… It’s really well thought out, and they’ve put a lot of work into it.
Aby Rinella: And isn’t it free? Is it, Easy Peasy free?
Yvette Hampton: It’s free. It’s all free.
Aby Rinella: Okay. That’s amazing.
Yvette Hampton: It’s absolutely free. So, this is a great resource.Abeka and BJU are amazing and fantastic, but they are definitely pricey. And so, if you have a budget and you can use it, it’s definitely worth it, but if you don’t have a budget and you’re just getting into this, and trying to figure this out and you need something free, you can literally do… You can homeschool all of your kids for free, using Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool. The website for that is allinonehomeschool.com. And just great resources on there, I highly recommend that, and it is a Christian website as well, so they are always pointing kids to Christ. Now, not every single video that they have on there is specifically a Christian video, because some of the videos, they’ll link you to a YouTube video to help teach some science, something like that.
Aby Rinella: Yeah, if you’re learning about ants.
Yvette Hampton: Yeah, right, right. But again, be with your kids when you do that.
Aby Rinella: Right, for sure.
Yvette Hampton: I wouldn’t seat them behind a closed door and say, “Go for it.”
Another one, and I’ve been on their website, but I’ve never really used this, but again, I have many friends who I trust, who have used it, is AmblesideOnline.
Aby Rinella: Yes, I’ve heard. I have people that I trust, that use that as well.
Yvette Hampton: Yeah, and that’s more of a Charlotte Mason approach. And so, that’s another great one. I can’t really tell you exactly how it works, but that’s just another one to check out online. I think the website is free, I know you can go on there and get resources and stuff, and then a lot of that is books that you can get through the library, or order online or whatever. But it’s a lot of reading and seems to be really well organized.
Aby Rinella: And I know that both… I know Abeka for sure, I’m not sure BJU, but they do have accredited programs, if you are looking for that in your state. I don’t… You’d have to know your state laws or what you need for high school courses, but I do know Abeka, and I’m sure BJU Press as well.
Yvette Hampton: Yes.
Aby Rinella: Okay. So, those are both accredited and have all subject matter, every subject… Is both of those. And then, another resource we didn’t mention in the first, but, Cathy Duffy’s 102 Picks… Curriculum Picks. She would probably have, if you go to her website, other options for online, privately funded, home-based, parent-led education, online schools.
Yvette Hampton: Yes.
Aby Rinella: And that is the freedom of homeschooling, we can all do it differently, but there are definitely online options for homeschooling.
ONLINE MATH CURRICULUM
Yvette Hampton: Yes. And math, one last one, I didn’t mention this. [chuckle] I’m not a math person. Math is the one thing that I was like, “Oh, dear, I don’t want to teach math.” Our family uses Teaching Textbooks, we’ve used it for years.
Aby Rinella: Yes, we do too.
Yvette Hampton: And we love it. They are so fantastic. As a matter of fact, they’re coming out with their newest version, hopefully this summer, hopefully before this next school year starts. I know that they’re working really hard to get it out.
Aby Rinella: It is absolutely excellent. For us, it changed math for our whole family. The kids can work independently and really excel.
Yvette Hampton: And then the other one, which you guys always hear at the beginning of every podcast, is CTC Math, and that’s another one that we have not used, but… I’ve gotten to know the guys at CTC Math, really like them, and I have a lot of friends who use CTC Math. It’s similar to the same concept as Teaching Textbooks, but seems to be really well laid out. And I know those who use it really like it a lot. I have not heard a single complaint about CTC math, so that would be another one. And both of those… Actually, all of these, as far as I know, you can go on and test out, like watch a couple of sample videos. I know with Teaching Textbooks, you can do the first 15 lessons for free.
Aby Rinella: Yeah, with Teaching Textbooks, those first 15 lessons are in order, so you could put your kids on there for a couple of weeks to really get a feel for if they like it. They also have online placement tests, so you can know where exactly your kid should start. The possibilities with this are endless, so don’t feel like you can’t do it, because you can!
Yvette Hampton: While we’re at it, we should recommend a great online option for homeschooling MOMS and DADS. The Homegrown Generation Family Expo has over 40 hours of great homeschooling conference sessions to encourage and equip homeschooling parents to get off to a great start, stay strong through the years, and finish well. You can get lifetime access to all of the content there for just $20, or you can enjoy over 9 hours of FREE videos here.
Math doesn’t come naturally for everyone, but there are some secrets to making it REALLY fun and for helping our homeschool students master it. We had the privilege of talking with Nadim El-Rahi, of CTCMath, for a recent episode of The Schoolhouse Rocked. In this interview, Nadim shared his passion for helping students (even the ones who don’t love math) understand it, master it, and even enjoy it.
Do you find teaching math to be a struggle for you or your child? If so, you will be encouraged by Nadim as he and Yvette discuss some of the big mistakes we make while teaching math, the number one roadblock many students face when learning math, how we can make math more fun, and spiral vs. mastery math.
Nadim El-rahi, looks after all things CTCMath and has been working with the team for 7+ years. He has a degree in Math and Economics. He and his wife, Tamara, have been married for 4 years and have 2 children, Emma (3 years) and Chloe (1 year). Nadim’s children are not yet school age, but he has an enormous passion for homeschooling and great admiration for homeschool parents.
Yvette Hampton: Hey, everyone. Welcome back to The Schoolhouse Rocked Podcast. As always, we have a great guest on today. And this is going to be a fun episode, because we’re going to talk about math. And you might think, “Uh, we’re not going to talk about math. That’s going to be boring.”
But it’s not, actually, because I am learning that math is fun and if you’re anything like me, you might have grown up as a student who hated math. And when I say hated, I mean despised math. I didn’t want anything to do with it. It was the class that I dreaded most, probably from about middle school on. I just did not understand math. I mean I understood basic concepts, but as it started to get a little bit harder, I just really struggled with it and my brain just doesn’t function that way.
But, believe it or not, there are people in this world who actually love math. And we are talking to one of them today. His name is Nadim El-Rahi and he is from CTCMath. And I know that you’ve probably heard a lot about CTCMath, and so we’re actually going to talk about math, we’re not going to talk so much about CTCMath today. But we’re going to talk about how to make math fun, and how to just engage your kids in and teach them effectively.
So Nadim, welcome to the show.
Nadim El-Rahi: Thank you. Thank you for having me, I’m so excited to be here. As you can see, I’m in my office. Ignore everything behind me, just focus on me.
Yvette: It’s okay. While you are in your office coming to us from Australia, which, I think you told me you’re about 16 hours ahead of my timezone, which is Eastern Standard Time, is that correct?
Nadim: Correct, yes.
Yvette: Okay, so it’s seven o’clock here, so 11 o’clock in the morning your time?
Nadim: That’s it. You’re pretty good at math.
Yvette: Yeah, right? Well, and you’re tomorrow, you’re into our tomorrow. As you and I were talking earlier, you could tell us everything about what happens tomorrow. Winning lottery numbers… If the Super Bowl was on you could tell us who won the Super Bowl. It would be great.
Well, welcome, Nadim, to the show. Tell us a little bit about you and your family.
Nadim: Sure. So I’m married to my beautiful wife, Tamara. Been married for four years now. We have two children, Emma and Chloe. Emma is three and a half, Chloe is one and a half. So I’m just loving the journey. Every day’s something new, something different, and it’s really fun. Parenting’s awesome.
Yvette: It is awesome. I could not agree with you more. I love being a parent, I love being a mom. It is the joy of my life, and as a homeschool mom, I get to experience it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And I used to think that I would not enjoy that, I used to think, “Why would I want to be with my kids all day, every day?”
But as it turns out, I actually really like my kids, and so I really do enjoy being with them most of the time. But in addition to thinking that I would not enjoy being with my kids, I also used to think that teaching them certain subjects would be really difficult, and math was at the top of that list. Math and science were the two things that I thought, “Man, if we ever homeschool, I don’t know how I would do that.”
And I was pretty terrified of that in the beginning because, like I said at the beginning of the podcast, I did not enjoy math growing up, it was very difficult for me. And I love people, I love nature, I love things like that. But math was just one of the things I struggled with.
And so coming into homeschooling I thought, “I can handle the elementary school years.” But getting into middle school and definitely into high school, I just thought, “I don’t know how in the world we’re going to manage this.” But I trusted that the Lord had a plan. And as He would have it, He has provided programs like CTCMath to come alongside us moms, who, whether we love math or struggle with math, can help us with teaching math to our kids.
So I want to talk a little bit about math.
Yvette: And first I would love to ask you, what are some of the biggest mistakes that you see homeschool moms making in teaching math to their kids?
Nadim: Yes, and math is an incredibly difficult subject to teach and particularly in these old grade levels. But I think there’s a few things that we can just try to ensure that we don’t do during our homeschool day. One of the big things is the long, drawn out explanation. If you take too much time, or over-complicate the explanation, students will often get lost. So we try to keep it short. Try to keep the younger grades three to four minutes, higher grades six to eight minutes.
Another mistake that can sort of happen that’s linked with that is giving too many diverse methods, or too many methods to attack a problem. Now, every child is unique. So if your child loves math, and they want to explore different ways to answer a problem, by all means. You want to expand on their strengths. But what we find is sometimes parents will over-complicate it. So it’s important to keep it short and not go into too many methods. Find the method that works best for your child.
Another mistake that’s often made is getting caught up in the hype of discovery learning, and we’re seeing this more and more often now. Don’t get me wrong, discovery learning has its place, and it is important, but let me give you a bit of an analogy. If you give a student a Rubik’s Cube, and you ask the student, “Hey, try to work this Rubik’s Cube out,” with no instruction, they’ll play with it, they’ll fiddle it, they’ll get it. Sure maybe one, two percent might get it, and that’s fantastic. But the majority, the vast majority, will get frustrated, annoyed, and put it down. And not want to go back.
Yvette: That’s me.
Nadim: But if I was to sit down with that same student, and show him a small algorithm, a small technique, a quick technique on how to solve that Rubik’s Cube, then they’ll be able to solve it. They’ll get excited, they’ll be passionate, they’ll want a bigger one. And then you can maybe go down that path of discovery learning with the bigger one, with the bigger Rubik’s Cube and whatnot. But throwing them in the deep end to begin with can often beat up their confidence.
And again, each child is unique. That sort of leads to learning your times tables. We believe it’s really important to nail down those facts and have those facts at a young age. It’s proven, there’s many studies that if students have a solid understanding of their times tables, math is far easier in those older grade levels, and they can build on that.
I know I’ve talked a lot about mistakes, but this is the biggest one, and this is the easiest one to commit. I want to start by saying this is not a criticism or anything, it’s just a self-awareness. And I think sometimes, and I’m certainly guilty of this, is getting frustrated when teaching. If the child senses any bit of frustration, you can throw things out completely, and you can lose them. So if you’re sensing the frustration, it’s important to get those levels down.
A consequence of this can be that the student is scared or turned off coming to you, and this could be problematic in the future when they’re coming to you with far more difficult problems as they grow up, much bigger than math. So I think trying to avoid any frustration, it is difficult, but.
Yvette: You were just talking about the importance of not getting too frustrated with our kids when we’re teaching them math. And we talk so much on the podcast about how one of the most important things in homeschooling is to build that relationship with our kids. Because it’s all about relationship, and the purpose of raising children in general is to prepare them for adulthood. And so we need to build that relationship with them, and like you said, if it’s something that’s causing a real rift in our relationship with our kids, then they’re not going to all of a sudden think, “All of a sudden I just love math, and I love it when my mom gets frustrated with me.”
That’s never going to be the case. And so, if I you can maybe give some suggestions of, when a child is really struggling with math, is it best to just put it aside for maybe six months or a year? Or back up and take it a little bit slower? Or maybe get a math tutor? I know a lot of homeschool families do that. What do you suggest, in order to protect that relationship that we have with our kids, what do you suggest is a good way to do that?
Nadim: Well certainly, I think if you are struggling, and it is a continual problem, I think you do need to maybe look at other resources and maybe outsourcing the teaching component of it. And you then become, maybe, the tutor, or they get to the bulk of their learning done, whether it be online, a personal tutor. What works best for you and your family. And then they come to you with a few problems.
But in that moment of frustration, I think it’s very important to remove yourself from that moment. I think it’s very important to take a step back and say, “Can we move on to a different subject? Or is there something else we can do today?” This is what I love about homeschooling. The freedom, the complete freedom, to sort of make the decision of what your day comprises of, and what you’re going to set out to do.
I think it’s important to maybe look at if there’s another method, using different methodology that you could try to explain the problem, or explain the question. Or if you don’t want to switch to another permanent resource, just finding a source for that particular concept that they might not be fully understanding.
It might be that, because you know, math is a building block, and it’s important to build on concepts. It might be the fact that an earlier concept was missed. So you might need to do some revision from the previous year’s work. And that’s really important. So just self-evaluate, have a look at the situation, have a good think about it, and trust in different things.
Yvette: So how do you go back? Because math obviously is a subject that builds on itself. And if our kids get to a point where they’re just really struggling, and they just can’t get it, how do you back up? Because we’ve had that happen a couple of times, where I’m like, “Man, I just don’t know what you’re missing, here.”
And partly because I’m not a math geek, I don’t know what it is that they’re missing. So is there a good system in place? Is there a good way to try to figure out like, “Oh, that’s the one piece of the puzzle that fell under the table, which is causing you to not be able to put this whole puzzle together at this point.” Is there a good way to do that?
Nadim: Yes and no. It comes down to the resource that you’re using, really, I think. Because math is structured in such a way, and some curriculums do this better than others, but if you look at the lessons, they’re incorporated within a topic. But within topics, it’s actually a stream of math, so it might be the stream of measurement. Or the stream of algebra, or the stream of numbers, depending on the grade level and whatnot.
But there are particular streams, and there might be only three or four streams within a grade level that needs to be covered. So if a student is having trouble… Simple example. If a student is having troubles with grade four fractions, well maybe something was missing from grade three fractions. So if your curriculum is ordered in such a way that the streams flow through from grade level to grade level, and topics flow through from grade level to grade level, then you can easily identify the building blocks that happened prior.
But, as we know as well, sometimes math draws on, particularly in the older grade levels, draws on other concepts from different concepts, and other grade levels, and if you’re not entirely sure, I would suggest that you… At CTCMath, we would encourage parents to reach out, send us an email saying, “Hey, my child’s having troubles with this.” And we’d refer it on to one of our math teachers, they would have a look at it, and make some suggestions.
So it does require a bit of in depth knowledge.
Yvette: Detective work.
Nadim: Detective work and in depth knowledge of understanding the curriculum and how it’s structured.
Nadim: I don’t know if that answers your question, I hope it did.
Yvette: Yeah, it does.
Nadim: Email me, I’ll help.
Yvette: Yes, it does. And I’m just going to give everyone your phone number and say, “Call Nadim, he’ll help you.”
Nadim: I’m going to give you my email [crosstalk 00:13:45]
Yvette: I won’t do that. So let me ask you this, because I remember, several years ago, for the first time I’d heard … Now remember, I’m not a math person. And I’m sure math was taught one of two ways when I was growing up. But I remember hearing the term “spiral math” and “mastery math”. And I was like, “What in the world? What does that even mean?” Can you explain the difference between the two, and is there a better way to teach math? Or does it depend on the child and their learning style?
Nadim: Sure. I think everything depends on the child. When I make comments, I make them about their generalizations, and the majority of students. So I think everything does depend on child. But I do make recommendations all the time. And they’re based on what we see with the majority of students.
So, quick definition. So mastery approach is when you focus on one concept at a time in math. Okay? As we know, math involves building blocks, but if you just focus on one concept and one particular thing.
Spiral incorporates revision, so incorporates learning with a buildup of concepts, which both naturally overlap. Okay? So what’s important? I believe, both. I believe both are important. But in separate parts of the day. So separate parts of the math lesson, I should say, not the day.
So when it comes to teaching the content, I believe mastery is the best approach. Focus on the one concept. And that way, if you focus on the one concept, and master that concept, you can build on it. Practice problems should be related specifically on that lesson that was just taught.
So if you have a look at your homeschooling day, and I said keep the explanations to three to four minutes. So if we take a math lesson and we say it’s 30 minutes. Three to four minute explanation, 20 minutes or 15 minutes practice problems, where it’s just focusing on that concept. Now, depending on the concept, there will be some spiral learning there, there will be some earlier concepts covered.
But then the last five, 10 minutes, spiral. Revision. Going back earlier concepts, mix-up of problems, what you just learned, what you learned last week, what you learned last month. Change it up. So when it comes to the teaching and the delivery, mastery approach. But incorporate spiral revision towards the end of a lesson. Does that make sense?
Yvette: Yeah, so basically it sounds like mastery is when they’re learning the concept for the first time. They master that concept. And then they practice it through the spiral method, right? Spiraling, to me, sounds just like practice. So you just go back, and you just keep practicing it so that you don’t forget it.
Nadim: Correct, but with the practice problems, I would focus solely on that concept that was just taught. It might be… Let’s take a really simple example. Multiplication, and we’re looking at four times tables. Okay? So questions we’ll just, four times certain numbers. Four times two, four times six, four times 12, and so on and so forth. Focus on that. And then, maybe in the last five, 10 minutes, include earlier multiplication that you’ve learned. So mix it up. Have fours, threes, and twos.
And that would ensure that some revision, the mind thinking, and a spiral approach, a more wholesome approach to the actual… Because when you sit down and you attempt practice problems, you’re not just focusing… A test, for instance. It’s not just one concept, it’s a whole range of concepts.
Yvette: Okay. So in talking about multiplication tables, times tables, have you found that there’s a best way to teach that to kids, or? Again, I’m assuming it’s depending on the child.
But here’s the thing. When you’ve got, as many homeschool families do, when you’ve got six kids, you can’t have six different ways to teach multiplication. So have you found, because you’re a math whiz, I know this about you. Have you found the most effective way that works best for a family in general? Like, “try this with all your kids.” And then you might have the one kid who doesn’t learn that way and then maybe you can try a different approach with them. But does there seem to be a best way to teach multiplication?
Nadim: Rote learning. Sit down, write it out, keep working through it, keep revising it, keep practicing it, keep learning it. Bounce it off siblings, if you do have those six children. Get them to test each other, quiz each other. At the dinner table, throw a few problems there. Rote learning.
Yvette: Okay. Just over and over and over again.
Nadim: Over and over.
Yvette: I remember, we used to do Classical Conversations years ago, and we don’t now because we travel so much. But when we were in a community, that was always a fun thing with rote memorization, is that we would do fun things like toss a ball back and forth, or do jumping jacks. Or, you know, whatever. Just fun things that would get kids to remember those different facts. And so yes, I agree. Rote memory is definitely, for times tables, the best way to get kids to memorize them.
Now, do you suggest doing them where it’s like, do all the twos times tables first. Then all the threes, and all the fours. Do you stack them like that? Or does it make sense to just try and kind of learn them all at the same time?
Nadim: I would learn twos, learn threes, learn fours. Now, you might want to, once you get to the fours, you might want to introduce some other math concept, because they might be sick of times tables, and then go back and do five, and six, and seven, and whatnot.
Yvette: It’s kind of funny, because we’ve covered a lot of topics on The Schoolhouse Rocked Podcast, but math is not something that we have talked about, yet. I mean, we kind of interspersed it into different podcast episodes, but we have not actually done an entire episode focused on math. And as I have been homeschooling my kids, and as we have gotten deeper and deeper into math, one of the things that I have really noticed and that we’ve become really aware of in our family, and I’ve talked about this on the podcast before. But it’s that math, everything that we teach our kids, we want to use those things to point our kids towards their creator, towards Christ.
So one might think, “Well how in the world do I do that with math? How do I teach math and Jesus at the same time?” Well, math is so perfect, because math is absolute. It is in perfect order, and it shows that we have a God, we have a creator who is a perfect God of perfect order, and he is a God of absolutes. And so just like two plus two will always equal four, it has always equaled four, it’s never going to change, it can never be revised by anybody because they decide that they want two plus two to equal five. They can’t do that.
And in that same way, we don’t get to change the order of God’s creation. And so math is just one of those things, that again, points us towards just an incredible, awesome creator. He made up math, we didn’t make it up.
And it’s amazing to me how when you look back into history, you can see how mankind, how humans have been able to develop their minds when it comes to understanding math. And they’ll have these big huge problems, that, in a movie or something, you’ll see them writing a big, some kind of math problem up on the board, and it seems like the impossible problem and then they get to the end and they’re like, “Oh. Well there’s the answer.” And there’s only one answer, you can’t have more than one.
And so I love that about math, because it’s not a subject that I enjoyed growing up, but I do enjoy that I get to point my kids to their creator by teaching it. So I would love to talk about how to make math fun. And I know you’ve got some suggestions on that. So talk to us a little bit about this. Talk to the mom like myself, who does not love math, who struggled with math growing up, and who really wants my kids to grow up not dreading math, but being engaged and excited about learning it.
Nadim: Yeah, for sure, for sure. I think the first thing is to tap into your child’s interests. I think to work out what your child’s interests are, and then try to relate that back to math. An example. Me, growing up, I loved cars. I loved the model of cars, I loved the various types of cars. So one thing I would have loved and enjoyed as a kid was surveying the models of cars on long road trips, just outside my home. And then tabling that, and creating graphs and charts.
So I think it’s important to tap into your child’s interests. So if they like cooking, well cooking is a fantastic example. There’s a lot of fractions involved in measuring. What I really like with cooking is, when you find a recipe for four people, but you’re cooking for six, and just multiplying the quantities, that always makes math fun. You know? It’ll add a really practical element to it.
Another example are board games. And these might be better suited to those students who really, really don’t enjoy math, who really don’t like math. So let’s draw out some fun in board games. My little three year-old, Emma, she loves order, and she loves helping out. So what we get her to do is set the table. And we get her to count out how many people are going to have dinner, so then she’s got to count out the plates, and count out the forks, and count out the knives. Because she wouldn’t have an extra fork, or a knife, or one short plate. She’s a bit of a perfectionist and Tamara and I laugh about it.
So really tapping into your child’s interests, and going with it, my brother loves bargains. So our best buys, when we go to the shops, he’s great at picking out the best buys and the best value for money.
Yvette: Yeah, you know, math is one of those things that is fun to kind of incorporate into just life skills. Because the whole purpose, of course, of raising our kids is not to raise kids, but it’s to raise adults. And so we get to take these things that kids learn in a classroom in a workbook, or in an online program like CTCMath, and they get to use them in the real world.
And you talk about your brother, he enjoys bargain shopping. Well, it’s great to be able to go into a grocery store and look at several different items. You know, you look at sour cream, and see, “Okay, how many different items are there? What is the size? How much do they cost? What’s the better deal?” And just trying to figure out that way. And of course, weighing bananas, if you’ve got bananas and they’re 85 cents a pound and you need three pounds of them, weigh them with your kids and think, “How much is this going to cost if we have three pounds?” And just doing that logical math with them. Because that is really what prepares them for adult life, for life in general.
And so it’s a fantastic… Gas is one of those things, too. You know, when you’re pumping gas, and you think, “Okay, gas is so much per gallon, and we’ve got to put 30 gallons in the car, how much is it going to cost us if we’re on empty?” Those are the things that really will allow kids, like you said, to have fun and to start realizing that, “Oh, math is not just something I do on a worksheet, but this is part of my everyday life as an adult. I have to understand these things.”
You mentioned board games. Do you have specific board games? The first game that comes to my mind is Yahtzee. Our family loves Yahtzee, we play that all the time. That, and Rummikub, those are my two favorite games. I like Rummikub because I almost always win. And I like to win. Are there board games that you recommend that are great for teaching math?
Nadim: I’m super competitive as well. I’m super competitive. Look, any games… I tend to lean towards the games that involve a bit of money transaction. So I always liked Monopoly. I think it gets you thinking about a different side of math. More probably the counting side of things, but Monopoly, any game of strategy really incorporates math, because you’re breaking down a problem. You’re breaking down, “What’s the best way?” So it might not involve numbers, but if it involves some sort of strategy, then certainly you’re using your math brain.
Yvette: Yeah, for sure. Playing games, often times, is really good for engaging kids’ brains with numbers and with math and even with accounting. Are there other activities… Well, first of all, are there any other games you would recommend? And I’ll actually, if I have time, I will do my best before this airs, I’ll try to see if I can find some good math games. Because I know that there are lots of homeschool moms out there who actually, they love games. They love playing games.
And again, that goes back to the relationship with our kids. I mean, how much fun is it to play a game with your kid? And I will say, if you have a child who’s super crazy competitive, and they cry when they lose, that is such a great opportunity to reach the heart of your child.
I remember my oldest, when she was real little, we would play games and she would get upset when she would lose. And that’s natural for most kids. I think most kids do that. And it was fun, well it wasn’t fun for her to cry, but I remember just thinking, “What a great opportunity this is to teach her how to lose at a game, and how to be a gracious loser.” She’s not a loser, she’s wonderful. And so I taught her, when she was really little, I would teach her to say, if someone else won… And I would not let her win. I would never let her win a game. But I would teach her to say, “Congratulations, Mommy, I’m so happy for you that you won.” And it was so funny because she was so little and she would lose, and she would first start to get emotional about it, and then she would say, “Congratulations, Mommy, I’m so happy that you won.”
And over time, it really did teach her that if you play your best, you always want to do your very best…
Yvette: But it’s okay if someone else wins. And when they do, we get to celebrate with them. And so, that’s a little bit of a rabbit trail, but are there any other games that, in thinking through it, that you think, “Man, these are just great games for teaching math”?
Nadim: Yeah, and just quickly on that, I think that’s a fantastic opportunity, really taking the opportunity to teach a little lesson there and teaching our kids to be a little kind, you know? Teaching kindness.
There’s many… Connect 4, is another game of strategy. Again, you’re sort of thinking ahead, and thinking on how to break down the problem, or how to best achieve the desired outcome of getting those four in a row. And again, I’ll reiterate, it doesn’t have to be numbers. So chess, or anything like that.
Yvette: Yeah. And strategy games, like you said, those are fantastic.
Nadim: Strategy games, yep. There’s a card game that I liked to play that I don’t know if you would have heard of. It’s called 400. You’ve basically got to get cards to… I’ll send you the rules, how about that?
Yvette: Okay. Oh, fine.
Nadim: It’s a counting game.
Yvette: Oh, yeah, that does sound fun. I would love to hear that. Our family loves Farkle. I don’t know if you’ve heard of that game.
Yvette: But it’s a really fun math game. You have to count the dice and stuff, and it has a terrible name. I hate the name of it. But it’s a really fun game.
So what else? What are some other ways of making math fun with our kids?
Nadim: Yeah, I think if you’ve got a lot of leaves outside, I think it would be pretty cool to go out and sweep them up and think, “Okay, how many bags are we going to fill up?” Play a bit of a guessing game where you sort of estimate how many leaves you’re going to fill up. That’s another situation of making math fun.
And bringing it out in nature, that sort of stems to nature. Everything follows growth patterns. Even if it’s just researching, just jumping on the internet and researching models of growth of trees, of all sorts of things. Growth and decay.
Yvette: Yeah. That’s fine. And you talk about estimating leaves and things. That’s something that you could even do with pasta, or M&Ms, or something like that. Put a bunch in a jar. I know that’s always a fun thing. Sometimes, we go to the library and they’ll have some sort of goofy jar with candy in it or something and, you know, “Guess how many M&Ms are in this jar, and the winner wins the whole jar.” And things like that. Yeah, those are great for kids, great for them to just learn how to logically think through that kind of stuff.
We have a few more minutes left, so what is the number one roadblock that you see that students face when learning math?
Nadim: I think the number one roadblock by far, it’s a great question, is confidence. They’re a bit down on confidence. That once that confidence is beaten, that once it’s down, a shield goes up and nothing sort of… It’s difficult to get through to them or make any headway.
So confidence. We’ve got to really rebuild that confidence. It’s just brilliant when they see things in a different way or an explanation from a different angle that really gets to them, and then you see the “a-ha” moment. The light bulbs go off. And the “a-ha” moment, and the change of expression on their face. So finding confidence is a big one.
Yvette: Yeah. I totally agree. I’ve experienced that many times with both of my girls, where they’re just struggling through a concept and then they just get it, and they’re like “Ah, I get it! I get it!” And they get so excited about it, and you’re like, “Yes, yes, you get it!”
And it is hard to not become frustrated when you’ve explained it to them so many times, over and over, but then there’s just that, it’s like a switch that just, “Oh, yeah, I get it!” And you know, that happens with many things, whether it’s spelling or math or, I don’t know, just a variety of different subjects. But math seems to be the one that…
Nadim: It’s a big one.
Yvette: That concept just clicking over, and just encouraging our kids along the way. And it’s one the great things about homeschooling is that we have our grade levels for everything, but as homeschool families, and as homeschool students, they don’t have to adhere to a specific grade level of anything. They don’t have to be in third grade math, or eighth grade math. We can cater to how God created them and what their bend is towards math.
I have one daughter who does not like math, and I have one who really likes math, and she really gets it. But my daughter who doesn’t like math, she enjoys other things much more than her sister does. And so it’s great to be able to just see how God has created each one of them with their specific gifts and abilities.
So one last thing that doesn’t actually have to do with math.
Yvette: You’re in Australia.
Yvette: I would love to know, what is the homeschool climate like in Australia? Is it growing? Is it even existent? I know you and I have talked before and you’ve said you thought about maybe homeschooling when your kids are of school age. What does it look like there?
Nadim: For sure. It is growing. That’s the great thing about it, it is growing, and it is getting bigger, which is fantastic. It’s not as big, of course, as it is in the US. I think the difference here is that there’s a lot more options available to parents with just the way government funding works. Every school receives government funding, so there’s actually a lot of parents who go off and start their own schools. A lot of people get together and start off their own schools.
There are more options in that. But I think as things change, and I think when our government, if they start to regulate curriculums and what is taught, I think you’ll see homeschooling just absolutely take off here in Australia. We have very close friends of ours who homeschool their six children. It’s fantastic to see. I can see that they actually tap into a lot of the US resources, which is awesome. With my involvement with CTCMath, I’m getting in touch with more and more Aussie homeschoolers as well, which is great.
Yvette: Yeah. That’s fantastic. Is it something that, if there’s a family who’s homeschooling, do others kind of look at them like they’re crazy? Like, “What in the world are you doing?” Or, because I know here in America, it’s not everywhere. But the majority of this country, I mean I never hesitate to go out in public with my kids during a school day. And never, literally I don’t think there’s been one time where anyone has just said, “Oh, you guys are homeschooled? That’s terrible, you should be in school, you should be in public school or private school.”
People may think that, but no one’s ever actually said that to me. And more often than not, people will actually say, “Oh wow, you’re homeschooled? That’s great. I have a sister who homeschools, or a niece who homeschools.” Or something like that. And it’s very widely accepted here, overall. Is it widely accepted there as well? Or are people still kind of sitting back wondering what this homeschool is?
Nadim: I think it is widely accepted. I think the issue that might sort of play on people’s minds, which is really unfortunately still the stigma of the sort of social ramifications. Which of course, we all know, is not true, and is completely wrong. But just sort of educating people, I suppose. Explaining it out to people.
Yvette: That is one of the big, big reasons behind Schoolhouse Rocked. Why we’re making the movie, why we’ve got our blog and our social media outlets, all of those things are to help people open their eyes up to the just great blessings and benefits of homeschooling. And so hopefully we can help do that down under as well.
Nadim: For sure.
Yvette: Nadim, thank you so much for your time today. I appreciate your math encouragement, and we appreciate you guys. We appreciate CTCMath. You guys have been very supportive of what we’re doing and so we are very grateful for you. And people can find out more about you at CTCMath.com, is that correct?
Nadim: Correct, yes.
Yvette: Okay, perfect. We will link to that in the show notes, of course. I’ll try to find some fun math games, in addition to the ones that you have recommended, and I’ll put those in the show notes as well. And you guys, thank you for listening. Nadim, have a great week, and listeners, you have a great week, too. We pray for you guys all the time and we are so grateful for your support and your encouragement. And we will see you guys back here again next week. Bye.
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