Posted in Subjects

Ray’s Arithmetic for Fractions


I have previously written about some of our math woes here. The long and short of it is that Delightful, 11, started off math with ease and would have been considered very advanced when she first started school.  Then, over time, she became more and more frustrated with our math program and now thinks she’s not good at math.  I have tried different math programs to help her break through her frustration.  Here is some of what we have tried and the results we have had:

Life of Fred – weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Math Mammoth – weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Strayer-Upton- weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Khan Academy- weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Math Without Borders free videos (Grandpa math)- weeping and gnashing of teeth.

After going through five programs in the past year, I finally convinced Delightful to let me try Ray’s Arithmetic with her one more time.  We had used it in the past but with weeping and gnashing of teeth because the Beechick guide sold by Mott Media wasn’t compatible with our family.  Thankfully, I found the Manual of Methods online and learned a whole new way of using Ray’s. The key is to use Ray’s Intellectual and Practical at the same time over multiple grades and not try to cram each book into a two-year span.

We have been using Ray’s Intellectual over the past few months for fractions and have made enormous strides with it – so much so that we have covered at least what Math Mammoth covers in grades 3-6, if not more.  Delightful is understanding what to do with fractions and is able to solve crazy questions like “1 bushel of rye is worth 3/4 bushel of wheat: how much rye is worth 4/5 of a bushel of wheat?” She has also been able to pass two Life of Fred Fractions bridges without rereading the chapters – from a book that had her near tears at the beginning of the year. All this from a little old-fashioned math book that we sometimes have to read with a magnifying glass to make out the numbers clearly.

I heartily recommend Ray’s Arithmetic and wholeheartedly agree with what commenter Tibby Dunbar had to say about the program:

And any kid who learns fractions with Ray’s has learned fractions forevermore, amen.

There isn’t really anything more that I can add to this comment.  With a little work with manipulatives at the beginning and carefully working through each problem at least once, Ray’s has been by far the best program we have used for learning fractions.  In fact, the success is so great I am re-visiting using Ray’s for other topics as well. The only downside I have found so far is the lack of complete answers for those tough questions. That hasn’t been an insurmountable hurdle for us since we have an older relative who learned math this way that we can bounce questions off of. Even if we didn’t, though, I know we could figure out most of the questions as long as we worked carefully and studied the sample answers thoroughly.

If you are frustrated with your math program and are looking for a program that’s free, easy, and effective, I highly recommend Ray’s Arithmetic. When it comes to learning fractions, it can’t be beat.

Posted in Subjects

Nature Study: Tree of Heaven

Flowers of Tree-of-heaven Ailanthus altissima, Shijiazhuang, Hebei, China

Last year we wanted to identify a city-planted tree that was growing on a neighbor’s lawn.  To our shock, we discovered that the tree was an invasive plant that many want to eradicate. The tree is called the “Tree of Heaven,” although many call it the “tree of hell” because of how difficult it is to manage.

Tree of Heavens are native to China and have been introduced into North America. These trees grow quickly and spread easily, even poisoning the soil around them so other plants can’t grow. They produce tons of seeds each year, as can be seen in the photos here.  They also produce a smell like rancid peanut butter or dirty gym socks. One Canadian article states they may cause gastroenteritis.

In their favor, they do have some medicinal benefits to humans and they can also be used to feed silkworms of the moth Samia cynthia. Wikipedia states their wood can be used for cabinet work, kitchen steamers, and firewood (source), although other sources say the wood is useless and the trees actually snap very easily in strong winds.

There has been call to eradicate the tree of heaven in some places.  Botanist Dr. Trevor Dines says of its effect on local ecosystems,

“If you travel throughout Europe, particularly the south of France and Spain, you’ll see whole areas, particularly urban areas, swallowed up by the tree of heaven.”

Yet, these trees are notoriously difficult to kill off.  This video contains more information on this interesting tree and shows how much work it is to kill:

Here’s a similarly intensive but organic method of killing a tree of heaven:

So far, our neighbor’s tree seems to be sending out successful seeds around our neighborhood.  We had to pull a small tree of heaven out of our lawn last year (it was not big enough to seed yet) and another neighbor now has one growing beside his driveway.  Time will tell if that tree holds up under high winds or not.

Posted in Subjects

Occupying Little Ones While Homeschooling

Hilda Fearon A portrait of a mother and her two sons 1911

Here are 134 activity ideas for preschoolers from Free Homeschool Deals:

Here are more great ideas from Homeschooling How-To’s:

I have not personally gotten great traction out of simple bagged learning-style activities.  My kids figure things out too fast and I do not have the time to constantly think up the next fun thing to occupy them.  Here are some things that do seem to work for us, though:

  • Play-doh
  • wooden blocks
  • straws and connectors
  • paper and pencil crayons
  • paint with water type books
  • Do-a-Dots
  • Busy Books playmats and figurines
  • puzzles; and
  • lots of toys

To these, I add occasional activities such as:

  • stringing beads
  • lacing cards
  • magnets
  • tangrams
  • simple card or board games
  • simple art projects; and
  • toy tool activities

One occasional educational activity that my little ones like and that takes at least 10 minutes is to hand them a flashcard with a number on it, some tiny pompoms, and a set of toy tweezers.  They spend as much time as it takes to carefully place the pompoms on the number with the tweezers.  For some reason, they love it!

Do you have a simple activity for occupying little ones while homeschooling? If so, share it in the comments below!



Posted in News, Subjects

Make Way For Ducklings

10,11,12,13 OK they are all here,lets go - panoramio“10,11,12,13 OK they are all here,lets go!” by Richard Mc Neil

I couldn’t help but think of Robert McCloskey’s Make Way for Ducklings when I saw this:

This is the adorable moment a mother duck and her ducklings were escorted across the road by a police officer….

Read more and see a video here:

Posted in Family & Parenting

They Need To See Your Authentic Christian Life

Mother and Daughter in Church

Melissa at Your Mom has a Blog makes an excellent point about raising children in a Christian family. In short, kids need to see their parents walk the walk and not just talk the talk:

The truths of God’s word need to be so real in me that I can’t NOT talk about them day in and day out. My faith needs to be so deeply ingrained in me that it informs every situation, every decision, every discussion. And, when that happens, before I know it I have spent a large part of my day with the kids just naturally talking about what the Christian life is all about, who Jesus is, and what the Bible says about things.

Read more here:

Posted in Subjects

Hooray for Minn of the Mississippi!

We watched this video as part of a science lesson and were pretty excited to hear that Minn of the Mississippi inspired the individual in the video:

Posted in Subjects

Nature Study: Pillbugs

Pillbug (17152476067)

Every so often, we get an invasion of some sort of bug.  Last year, it was pillbugs.  The kids had a lot of fun watching the bugs roll up into little balls as they relocated them outside of our house.  With all of the excitement, I thought I’d see if there was anything interesting on the internet related to these bugs. Here’s what we found:

From this website, we learned a bunch of interesting things, including the fact that pillbugs are not insects. They are actually crustaceans who breathe through gills:

More fascinating information can be found at these websites:

At this website, we found a nice picture to color along with more information on pillbugs and their lives:

Here is an easy activity kids can do with pillbugs called “Take a Pillbug to Lunch!:”

Here is a more advanced science lab on pillbug behavior:

Here is an art lesson on how to draw a pillbug:

There is even a pillbug hand puppet you can buy:

So, if you find yourself with a lot of pillbugs at some time, give these links a visit for some easy nature study ideas you can do with them. Happy discovering!