A Review of Math U See


We use My Father's World Curriculum, and love it, BUT their math recommendation of Singapore didn't seem like it would fit my boys (not all boys, just MY boys).  On recommendation from a  friend, we tried the Math U See (MUS) Primer in Kindergarten. Many said we could try it for K basic place value concepts, and easily switch if it didn't seem to fit our learning styles. Primer is just an introduction to math and place value,  and I have heard many people who use it for kindergarten, then use another curriculum for the rest of elementary. 

We liked the solid foundation of the WHY behind place value so much, we are now in the middle of our 4th book, Delta.  Please note I have no affiliation with MATH U SEE, and am not being compensated for my opinion. 


DVD TEACHER

Math has never come naturally to me.   When I was told MUS had a teacher's manual and a DVD teacher, I was super excited.    I do have to read the manual, watch the short video alongside them, and usually do some reinforcement activities after the video (all listed in manual with exact wording) for each concept with them, but I feel like the videos really teaches the concept. I often share how I feel like I am relearning the "whys" behind math myself  as we watch the videos together. 

LEARNING STYLES
I  was also drawn to MUS because I have visual and kinesthetic learners. The colorful blocks were very appealing.  As we dug into the approach, I was very pleased with the  "Build , Write , Say " approach, which is part of the 4 Step Approach. It hits on many different learning styles:
  • "Build" with the colorful blocks, during DVD lesson and during practice pages. This appeals to visual and kinesthetic learners.
  • "Write" the problems and solutions with the practice pages.  This also appeals to visual learners. 
  • "Say" by talking through the why of the concept as you build and write, and later showing they have mastered the concept by teaching me, the teacher, how to do it. This is useful to auditory learners, who benefit when they hear their own voice while learning. 

EDUCATIONAL PHILOSOPHY
MUS is a mastery approach curriculum that explore the WHY behind the math, not just the HOW.  

Mastery versus Spiral

If you are new to these terms of mastery versus spiral, below is a quick definition of each: 

Mastery-"Proponents of math mastery believe that math is learned best when learned incrementally, with one skill building on the next. In a mastery math program, a student develops a thorough comprehension of one topic before moving on." Demme Learning

Spiral Approach -"In a spiral curriculum, learning is spread out over time rather than being concentrated in shorter periods. In a spiral curriculum, material is revisited repeatedly over months and across grades."

This means if the child has not learned the skill, the class still moves on, with hopes that when it is revisited later in the year, or the next grade, they will get it then.  With a large classroom of 30 plus kids, I can't imagine doing it any other way.  Kudos to AMAZING public school teachers who do make this work. Thankfully, I have a classroom of only two, and can choose what works best for my specific children.

I was attracted to a Mastery Approach based on my own experience in elementary math . I remember vividly getting stuck multiplication tables, and never being able to catch back up when they moved on.  While the spiral approach does circle back around, but it is done at a higher & more complicated level.   By that time I was still so far behind, and ashamed for being that far behind, that I just couldn't catch up. I didn't want that for my boys.


For more on Mastery versus Spiral Approach, click here

Grade Levels 
Another aspect to Mastery approach is there are no grade levels, which means no stressing about finishing , or NOT finishing, a book in a year.  You literally go at the pace your child needs. We did Primer in only 4 months. We finished Alpha (addition) in one school year, plus LOTS of summer review We finished Beta (subtraction) in  only 2/3 a school year, and Gamma (multiplication) was almost was the death of me because it took a year and a half, but it was worth it. 

The major Con of mastery approach is sometimes you just get STUCK. I felt like we would NEVER finish Gamma!!!!!!! It took us a year and half, plus 3 months off of all math because we were all frustrated, BUT like always in MUS, I am so glad we didn't give up. All the work in mastering multiplication facts has meant we are FLYING through Delta. The mastering of the facts is paying off, they know the WHY, so the HOW comes easily.


We had a similar experience in addition (Alpha), then flew through subtraction. To those MUS moms who want to throw in the towel on addition or multiplication, keep going. Trust the hard work in mastering the facts now will make your life so much easier later on!

Some critics say there isn't enough review in mastery approach. I would disagree on two points. 
  1. Mastery approach is based on scaffolding, meaning they build upon each other. You review past concepts every time you do another, because you HAVE to to get the problem correct.
  2.  Every lesson has 3 practice pages for your current concept, then 3 pages of review, and one enrichment page. The review pages review earlier concepts you've learned in that book. If my boys were struggling with a review page, then that alerted me we needed to go back and review the WHY of an earlier lesson in that book, which we have done on several occasions. 

WHY MATH U SEE MIGHT NOT BE FOR YOU
We do love our MUS curriculum, but there are a lot people it just doesn't work for.  One friend of mine told me that it didn't seem to work if she jumped into in later grades.  Since it is a mastery program, the scaffolding built in earlier is necessary to understand in later books. That said, a mastery approach means the books are not by grade level, so in theory, you child could "catch up" pretty easily.  

If your child plans to enter into public school soon, MUS may not necessarily be for you.  Majority of public schools use spiral approach, not mastery. Think about looking into Saxon or Abeka.  If I sent my kids into public school now, they would technically be "behind" most public school 4th graders because we have yet to learn decimals.  I have no problem with that because I know once they have TRULY mastered place value, multiplication, and division, then decimals will be a breeze. 


If I am wrong in these reasons, I sincerely would love feedback. I welcome any homeschooling families have put their kids back into public school after using MUS, please comment below on your child's experience.


OUR FUTURE WITH MATH U SEE

We are entering into 5th grade next year.  For now, I wholeheartedly recommend MUS as an elementary math curriculum.  Your child will have a solid foundation of the "whys" of math. My plan for now is to continue with MUS, but that may change as we get into Junior High and High School. We plan to go through General Math, the consider if their secondary Math is still appropriate for us.   A few other MUS mothers have told me that use through  junior high, then switched for high school. If you are a mother with this experience, please comment below, I'd love to hear your experience. 


*Note about Common core and MUS
Some homeschooling families were upset when Math U See aligned with CC. What we have found the main teaching of MUS has not changed. The only change I have seen is the Enrichment pages have incorporated more English and writing. Anytime the Enrichment page had "new math" approach that just didn't make sense to us, we just skip it without it effecting any other learning. 

For more questions about MATH U SEE, visit their FAQS page


Let me know about your experience with MATH U SEE below in comments!  Thanks!

Free Piano Lessons, Review of Hoffman Academy



Music can be neglected very quickly in homeschooling. Our curriclum has some great learning materials for Music history, but the practical playing is not covered. Unfortunately I am not a musically talented person, so I am not capable of teaching themselves, and for awhile lessons were just not an option financially. Thankfully, we found a solutions two years ago with free music lessons through using Hoffman Academy


SOLID MUSICAL FOUNDATION
Hoffman Academy is the solid musical foundation along with piano basic;  learning scales, note reading, and even musical composition.  We started when the boys were in second grade and could read fluently. 

Mr. Hoffman is also a fun teacher, and understands how kids learn.  My kids look forward to the videos, he is educational and entertaining with fun puppet shows and jokes.

 In the beginning units, the parent might want to  to sit with them during each video lesson and practice, but they are only ten to twelve minutes. I am amazed at how much the boys have learned through these lessons in just a short time. We are currently in Unit 3, and they are able to practice pretty independently. I have printed all the songs and a practice schedule, and put in a binder for easy access during practice. 


BUDGET FRIENDLY
The free lessons from Hoffman Academy have been a huge blessing to our family. There are now two levels of membership, Basic for free and Premium for $15 a month.  We use the basic free membership, and then spend the very small amount they ask for PDF of the printable materials &  practice MP3s ($20 for 20 lessons), and it is so worth it! So far, we have not felt the need to buy membership, and are still just enjoying the free videos and buys the printed materials each unit.  IN the future, I may upgrade because $15 a month for two kids is still a great price.
We use our tablet and a keyboard for lessons.

I hope this help someone looking for a music education option for your homeschool. 

My Emotional Journey of Decluttering


Marie Kondo, a guru of decluttering, believes everything in your house should give you joy. I had actually never heard of Marie Kondo until she was mentioned in a Gilmore Girls Revival episode, and  I was already knee deep and several years into in this journey of decluttering, which began in 2015 for me.

A little back story,  my husband I  married at 19 years old. We worked full-time and put ourselves through college. I was a preschool teacher for a few years, then the year after my husband finished college a lot happened:

1.) My husband began an entry level job as a social worker
2.) We bought a starter home of a 900 sq ft bungalow (which we are still in 10 years later)
3.)  I had twin boys and  became a stay at home mom

Now fast forward several years. We were struggling to make ends meet  for so long at the beginning, I never said no to anything given to us; including hand-me-downs, giant pieces of furniture (headboards, entertainment centers, etc), and old school tube TVs. We were drowning in stuff because I felt like I couldn't give away a gift.  While I was not qualified to be an the show "Hoarders", I had been unconsciously hoarding things, with the idea that they gave me security. In reality, they added to my anxiety and discontentment in our small house.

The real push to change came with a Willow Tree Nativity Set.  It was a very expensive full set that my estranged mother had given me years before. It was worth hundreds of dollars, and my husband and kids loved it, but it made me remember negative feeling every time I saw it.  It truly was beautiful, so I brought it out the first few years of my kids' lives, then slowly stopped bringing all the pieces out each year , claiming there wasn't enough room to set it up....then it stayed in storage three Christmas seasons because I couldn't bare to have it in my house.  

Once I finally decided that my feelings were more important than the supposed  value of this set, I finally had the courage to give it away.  The problem was I didn't want to just give it to Goodwill, and I felt guilty about selling it.  I wanted to turn this symbol of God's hope, a depiction of Jesus' birth, into something positive, instead of a negative reminder of a broken relationship. 

I prayed about how to give it away for almost 6 months. In the end, God gave me a very clear direction for a specific person who needed the encouragement of the set. The weight I felt lift when it left my house was AMAZING. The joy of seeing the other person enjoying the set replaced all those years of negative association.  Now when I see a Willow Tree Nativity, it reminds me of when God transformed my hurt into joy.

The process of getting rid of the Nativity made me examine WHY I owned each item in my house. This meant purging things I was storing out of guilt or obligation. Slowly, but surely, I began to get rid of anything that didn't bring me joy. 

It wasn't overnight, but this first step gave me permission to make a big change in my life.   If you don't know me, I am a recovering people-pleaser. My people-pleasing tendencies mean that guilt was a big motivator in my life, and this guilt was tangible by piling up stuff in my house! 

Some may call me unsentimental, but conquering my people-pleasing meant even some gifts given by beautiful loving people had to go- things that weren't my style or just didn't fit our lifestyle. I had 4 Pie fancy dish/displays and had never baked a pie in my life.  I had 14 sheet sets, because I kept receiving them as Christmas gifts from my in-laws.  I sold the furniture I had been given that I was storing  for my "dream home",  that was keeping me from enjoying my present home.  

Once I got rolling, I finally had the courage to I donate clothes I had been given, or ill-fitting clothes I bought at garage sales, but felt ugly in. I gave myself to permission to buy clothes I actually feel good wearing.  Now I have less clothes, but I like how I feel good in all of them.

This journey has taught me that  stuff wasn't just stuff, every item in my life had power to affect my mood and life. Decluttering wasn't just tidying up, it is a practice in courage and being true to myself. 

This is where I must  urge you to pray, or bring a friend alongside you when you begin decluttering.  It will bring up emotions you may not expect, but need to be dealt with.  The feelings may not be guilt like me, but fear for the future, or a myriad of other things we attach to our stuff. The other side is beautiful, keep going, but don't go alone. 

Give yourself permission to put yourself before your stuff.  

So that is the story of how I started my decluttering journey. It took me almost a year and half to get rid of the equivalent of seven full van loads (all seats down and stacked to the top) of stuff.  I now love my little house again, and everything it in is useful or brings me joy.

Good Luck if you are beginning this journey. Take your time, start small, and don't go alone.








You might be interested in my other Decluttering Posts:







LEGO Landmarks- Exploring Countries and Cultures



This past year we turned my boys' Lego obsession into another avenue of learning.  Our third grade study was a tour around the world, using My Father's World Exploring Countries and Cultures.  For each country, we studied their culture, flags, ecosystem, and landmarks.

You can add the Lego Landmark anytime during your trip around the world; we would usually make the flag the same day we colored our flag notebook page, then make a landmark at the end of studying each country.  If there wasn't a specific landmark that jumped out at us, we made a few animals that we studied in that country's ecosystem.

Below is a list of some our Lego creations during the year.  Some were my idea, and some were the boys' ideas. Use your imagination, and your kids will probably come up with their own fun creations!

Introduction
  •  Map of your room, house, and  neighborhood

North America

United States
  • Buildings- Statue of Liberty, Washington Monument, or White House
  • Flag


Mexico
  •   Buildings- Mayan Ruin Pyramid Chichen Itza and an Adobe House
  • Flag


Canada
  •  Maple leaf
  • Ecosystem- Northern forest and tundra animals

South America

Brazil
  •  Statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janerio
  •  Ecosystem- Rain forest Animals

Europe
Norway
  • Reindeer shepherds and their homes (after watching a video on nomad reindeer shepherds)

 France
  •  Building- Eiffel tower
  • flag
Germany
  • flag


Africa
Kenya
  • Crocodile int he Nile River
  • Watering  hole with animals, on Savannah 
  • flag

Asia
Saudi Arabia
  • camel 
  • flag (use green lego board for back, and white blocks for design and sword)
India
  •  Building- Taj Mahal (after reading 'T is for Taj Mahal')
  • elephant
  • flag


China
  • Building- Great Wall of China

Japan
  • Japanese Building with traditional rooftop
  • Ninjas and Samurai Warriors

Russia
  •  flag
  • Saint Basil's Cathedral

Antarctica
  • Penguins 
Australia
  •  Building-Sydney Opera House
  • different types Coral Reef


Crockpot Teriyaki Chicken Freezer Meal

Crockpot Teriyaki Chicken Freezer Meal 
Makes 1 gallon-sized bags

  •  2 chicken breasts                                       
  •  1 tbsp dried mince onion                       
  •  2 minced garlic cloves                             
  •  1/2 cup pineapple juice   
  • 1 1/2 cup teriyaki sauce   

Day of cooking


  • steamable stir fry veggies                             

Directions:
1. Label your bags with cooking the directions.
2. Trim chicken breasts and cut in half to have a total of four pieces of chicken per bag. Add meats to bag
4. Add of each of other ingredients to each bag.
5. Let out air, seal bag, and lay flat in freezer.

To serve

  1. Cook on  6- 8 hours on low.
  2. Shred chicken with fork, add steamed stir fry veggies. 
  3. Serve over hot rice.

Crockpot Sweet and Sour Meatballs Freezer Meal


Crockpot Sweet and Sour Meatballs Freezer Meal
Ingredients:
·         28 oz package frozen meatballs
·         15 oz can pineapple tidbits
·         1 green pepper, diced
·         1/2 cup shredded carrot 
·         8 oz can water chopped chestnuts (drained)
·         3/4 to 1 cup white vinegar
·         3 tbsp cornstarch
·         2 tbsp soy sauce
·         ½  cup brown sugar

To freeze

1.      Label Gallon sized Freezer Bag.

2.      Drain Pineapples, set juice aside.

3.      Place  pineapples, carrots, pepper, and water chestnuts in bag.

4.      Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl and pour over meatballs.

5.       Remove as much air as possible, freeze flat for up to 3 months.

 

To serve:  
1.      Thaw in fridge overnight.  
2.      Pour bag of meatballs  into crockpot, and Place contents of bag in crockpot.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3 to 4 hours.
3.      Serve over rice.

Variation- used chicken breasts instead of meatballs

Crockpot Cilantro Lime Chicken with Corn and Black Beans Freezer Meal

Crockpot Cilantro Lime Chicken with Corn and Black Beans
Ingredients  
·         2 chicken breasts                          
·         6 TBSP of lime juice                    
·         1 cups fresh cilantro, chopped      
·         1 bags (16 oz) bag frozen corn     
·         2 minced garlic cloves                  
·          1 TBSP dried minced onion        
·         1 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
·         3 tsp cumin                                   
·         salt and pepper to taste
·         2 tbsp olive  oil     

Directions:
1.      Label your bags with cooking the directions
2.      Trim chicken breasts and cut in half to have a total of four pieces of chicken per bag
3.      Place ingredients in a resalable gallon-sized freezer bag. Mix together and zip bag closed. Lay flat to freeze

To Serve
1.      When ready to eat, remove from freezer and thaw in fridge for 24 hours.
2.      Put contents of bag in Crockpot
3.      Cook on LOW for 8 hours (or HIGH for 4 hours).  Shred Chicken with Fork.
4.      Serve with tortillas and toppings such as with sour cream, guacamole, salsa, and cheese.

Adapted from Over the Moon