Homeschool Notes

This part of the site is not directly related to building a house, but I wanted to include it here so I have a place to track my thoughts. We homeschool our kids and I want to do that well. So, I am using this as a forum to refine some of my ideas. I hope it’s useful.

Homeschool game: Prime Climb

michael : December 28, 2015 5:23 am : Homeschool Notes

For Christmas we got a game called Prime Climb (link to Prime Climb page).

It’s a fairly simple math game that helps solidify addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in a fun way. The game is a race to 101. You have two pawns on a board with places from 0 to 101, and you want to get both your pawns to 101 before the other players. Each turn you roll two 10-sided dice. You then can move your pawns by adding on the dice value, or multiplying, subtracting, or dividing. (Say, you’re on a 22 and you roll a 4 and a 5, then you can multiply 22 by 4 to get 88 and then add 5 to get 93. You cannot exceed 101 at any point.) If your pawn comes to rest on a position that already has another pawn, you send that pawn back to 0. If your pawn comes to rest on a prime number larger than 10 (which are conveniently colored red all the way around), you get to pick a card from a stack that gives you extra powers, like being able to force an opponent on a subsequent move to only subtract or divide.

The game is quick to learn, and my 6-year-old Emma was inspired enough to keep going despite her limited multiplication skills. We pulled out a set of Base 10 Blocks and did multiplication that way.

In addition to it being a fun way to practice multiplication and division, it has a decent amount of strategy and helps you focus on ways to get to 101 within the restrictions of the game. Furthermore, it elegantly depicts how a number is composed of its prime factors. This game is a winner. It’s certainly at least as good as my childhood favorite, The 24 Game, because not only does it involve strategy to get to a certain number, but also you don’t have to worry about people of different skill levels racing to the end like in the 24 Game (which is still a great game!)

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Free Homeschool Resource: CrashCourse US History

michael : November 27, 2015 3:19 pm : Homeschool Notes

The internet has lots of free content with a wide range of quality, from total junk to absolutely amazing. Today I’m going to talk about Crash Course US History, which is free and available on YouTube. First, here is the link to Crash Course US History on YouTube:

The course is narrated by John Green, who I’ve otherwise seen on the YouTube channel Mental Floss. He is a fast talker, but his mannerisms are funny and engaging. Each episode covers a period of European-era US history, with a total of 47 regular episodes (and one bonus episode) bringing us up to the present day, at least the present day when the series was created. Each episode features a narration of the relevant events and people, uneducated comments from “Me from the Past” (John Green’s former self), an exaggerated animated depiction of some historical event in question (the “Thought Bubble”), and the reading of an original-source document where John Green has to guess the author, and if he gets it wrong, he gets fake-shocked by a “shock pen” as punishment.

So, here are some of the strengths of the series:

  • It’s brief and to-the-point. It doesn’t get bogged down in boring details that aren’t relevant for a surface-level discussion of history.
  • It’s funny and engaging.
  • It places minimal emphasis on dates and no emphasis on memorizing dates.
  • It’s not just a history of wars and battles. Wars are mentioned, but not in the manner common of many other history books where history is basically just a way to get from one war to the next.
  • It’s divided neatly into bite-size segments.
  • It provides a good context for historical discussions. It’s easy to pause a lesson and have a brief discussion on whatever topic comes up.

Now, the videos are sprinkled with commentary and it’s primarily politically-left leaning commentary. However, for the most part the commentary is brief and not way overboard.

A here’s a video:


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Homeschool Resource: Reading Eggs

michael : November 13, 2015 7:16 pm : Homeschool Notes

There are hundreds of different ways to learn to read. One of the bigger dividing lines is sight words vs phonics. First, a note: English is not a phonetic language. Phonics will only help you so far. Case in point, how do you say “read”? Is it red or reed (both of which are also words). With German, our kids’ other native language, it’s easier. German is almost phonetic with few ambiguities, so it’s much easier to read. That being said, some basic phonetic patterns make it easier to deal with words you don’t know yet. So, that being said, one resource that we’ve used with Lisa, Emma and a bit with Ben is Reading Eggs. It costs $59/year as of this writing. It has a number of sequential, relatively fun, computerized reading lessons that simultaneously deal with phonics and sight words. Phonics is really a bridge to sight words. Adults, generally, do not sound out words as they read them, but just glance at them and know them by sight. Even in phonetic languages like German, you don’t sound things out. If you see Strassenbahnschienen, you don’t go through sound-by-sound, but rather, you immediately see the word splits (strassen-bahn-schienen) and recognize each word on its own. (The word means street car tracks, in case you were wondering.)

So, if you have a bit of money to spend, Reading Eggs might be good for you. I believe they have a free trial so you can see if it meshes with your kid.

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