If you need evidence that homeschooling is a viable option for education, simply take a look at the number of conventions, conferences, and expos that are held each year to support it. If we at Demme Learning had the resources, we could be busy just about every single weekend of the year at regional, state, local, and specialized conferences.
However, no matter how much we love our customers and want to be everywhere they are, we don’t have unlimited time, energy, or money. Plus our team members would most likely revolt — something about being human and getting tired and wanting to see their own families. So we have to pick and choose how to spend our resources to provide the most benefit from homeschool conferences to the most people.
Homeschooling parents need to do the same when planning to attend a convention. Your time, money, and energy are all precious and limited, so you want to make sure you don’t spend any of them wastefully. If you’ve never been to a convention before, they can be overwhelming. Even if you go every year, there are always new, exciting things to see. (If you happen to have the secret to unlimited time, money, and/or energy, please let me know.)
When I was homeschooling, I went to the CHAP Convention in Pennsylvania with a friend (when it was still in the Farm Show Building in Harrisburg). So! Many! Books! And I wanted to see this speaker and this speaker and I simply HAD TO attend this workshop and I simply could not MISS the discounts from these vendors even though I didn’t use their curriculum and never ended up using it…(RECORD SCRATCH NOISE) Wait. There must be a better way than walking through the door and turning into a deer in the headlights, going home with a headache, wondering why I was broke and anxious and sadly disappointed.
Turns out, there is. It’s called “planning,” and, while it will probably never be my favorite thing, I definitely understand the value. With the counsel of some experienced, wiser homeschooling friends, I was able to go back to CHAP the following year and have a great time! I saw all of my must-see speakers, I purchased curricula that I intended to use (and did!), I attended workshops, I had a wonderful time socializing with other parents and vendors.
So here you go — whether you yourself are an experienced, wiser homeschooling parent or a total newbie, you can probably find a nugget of advice in this list of tips we’ve pulled together form some of our favorite homeschooling bloggers. If you have a suggestion we’ve missed, please add it in the comments. We hope to see you during conference season!
25 Homeschool Convention Tips
1) Research the Convention in Advance
“Carefully read the details in your email or on the convention website beforehand. Most convention groups spend hours of time explaining thoroughly in both their emails and on their website about vendor workshops, speakers, and enthusiastic exhibitors among other important details. Being familiar with the schedule of workshops, the layout of the vendor hall, and convention hours allows you to plan your visit and maximize the best use of your time.”
2) Register Ahead of Time
“It’s just one less thing to have to worry about once you arrive. You’ll have a shorter line to wait in, not to mention you can typically get a cheaper price if you register early. Depending on the convention you plan to go to, you may be able to get a good deal if you sign up to volunteer for a few hours during the convention.”
3) Bring a Rolling Cart
“This is one of those things that I often forget, but my husband actually bought our first rolling cart when we were at the Great Homeschool Convention in Long Beach. It’s super handy to have in the exhibitor hall unless you do not plan to shop.”
4) Set a Budget
“What I did: In my excitement, I ended up making a few impulse purchases…well, more than a few! I was like a kid in a candy store!!! Honestly, I came home with a bit of buyer’s remorse, because I had realized that I spent way too much money on products that I probably shouldn’t have purchased. To this day, there are still some materials that I purchased at my first convention that we have yet to use!”
What I should have done: I should have set a budget! If you are married, I suggest that you and your spouse discuss your homeschool needs and create a workable budget…and stick to it!
5) Review Speaker & Workshop Schedule Before You Go
“Most conventions offer a downloadable version of the convention schedule that you can go over before convention starts. Print it off, make notes in the margins and think about what workshops and sessions you would like to attend. You can narrow it down more when you get there.”
Homeschool Convention Guide: Attending a homeschool convention can be a challenge. Read this guide to become the victorious conqueror of the homeschool convention.
6) Plan Your Shopping
“There are a few benefits to shopping at the convention. First of all, many of your curriculum writers or publishers are in attendance. This is the perfect chance to get to ask how to award a high school credit for their curriculum or how to adapt it to use with gifted kids or a wide age-range. Many companies also staff their booths with long-time users as well. That way you also get a chance to chat with moms who have used the curriculum in their own homes.”
7) Take Snacks & Water
“Check the venue where you are attending to see about rules about what you can and can not carry in with you. You will likely want to have a snack and some water between sessions and curriculum hall browsing. If you take your kids, they will definitely want them.”
8) Bring a Notebook
“If at all possible, attend the speaker sessions and write down thoughts! By the end of the weekend you will have ingested so much new information that your notes will be very helpful as a refresher when you get home.”
9) Go With a Friend Who Has Attended Before
“Go with a friend who has attended before. This is one of the best ways to get the most out of a convention. A homeschooler who has previously participated will have inside knowledge of how to best navigate the event, capitalize on workshops and keynote speakers, and the most advantageous ways to spend your time. She will also have a “layout of the land” and be able to help you more efficiently get to the places you want to go within the timeframes you have available. Plus, it can be incredibly helpful and encouraging to have someone with which to discuss all you have seen and learned, and you can save money by sharing a hotel!”
10) Bring Cash, Checks, and Your Credit Card
“Many vendors will accept credit cards, however some smaller ones or used sales might only take cash or check so just be prepared.”
11) Wear Comfy Clothes & Layer
“More then one mom told me how the temperature can very from freezing to hot depending on where you are in the convention center. You will want a light sweater or jacket for the cooler rooms. Be sure that you have shoes that are comfortable and good for walking (pack a 2nd pair to swap out…)”
12) Get a Map at the Door
“Some venues are huge, and having some idea of where things are located will be valuable. Make sure you mark your favorite vendors on the map in order to find them easily.”
13) Pick the Right Sessions
“As far as the sessions are concerned, choose the ones that interest you the most. If there is a scheduling conflict, you can always purchase a CD or download the one that you don’t attend. Once you arrive, sit close to the front and take notes. Some parents take notes on a tablet, others with their smartphone. You may prefer the tried and true pen and notebook — they always work and don’t need batteries!”
14) Take Good Notes
“Although it may seem like you’ll never forget that clever idea or anecdote, chances are at the end of all the speakers and workshops chances are some pearls are going to get lost. Make sure you right down key points that spoke to you clearly, concisely, and (speaking to myself here) neatly. Then you and your spouse can compare notes on the workshops you both attended and look back on these notes in the upcoming year as you need the encouragement and wisdom.”
15) Take Advantage of Session Breaks
“There is some built in lag time between sessions. Use this to review and highlight your notes. You can also throw away flyers that do not interest or pertain to you. You will have a lot of stuff, so it’s good to pair it down when you can. You can also break out your phone so you can go ahead and follow your favorite speakers or companies on social media.”
16) Meet the Speakers
“One of the best parts of a convention is the self-education and encouragement you can receive by attending the speaker workshops. Usually there are an overwhelming number of options. This is why you have to do your homework and become familiar with the various speakers and their messages. Highlight the ones that fall within your focus for the year and plan to attend some of their sessions. Circle other sessions that sound interesting – even if you can’t attend, you can usually order copies of their session.”
17) Ask Questions
“Ask lots and lots of questions. The reason you are at the convention is to learn – so ask! Believe me, vendors LOVE to talk about their products!”
18) Pace Yourself
“Homeschool conventions have a LOT to offer but can make your head spin. We can’t see or hear or do everything! When it comes to workshops and keynote speakers, usually they will have recordings available for purchase afterward. Pop a CD into the car stereo system or insert the DVD into the video player on your own time. Interested in a vendor but don’t have the time to chat with them? Pick up their contact information and contact them later. If you’re new to homeschooling, this whole new world can seem overwhelming at times. Pacing yourself will give you and your family much-needed breaks. After all, you can nap at the hotel for a little bit if you really need the rest!”
19) Look Up, Smile, Meet People, and Share!
“Homeschooling conventions range in size. We attend the THSC Southwest Convention & Family Conference, and it is enormous. I make it a point to look up, smile, talk with people when I’m in line, meet people to the left and right of me when I’m sitting in a session, or ask people questions. This is one of the most fun parts of attending a homeschooling convention – being surrounded by tons and tons of like-minded parents. It is a tremendous experience!”
“Grab lunch with a friend and decompress from the convention noise. Sitting outside for a while can help you regain some clarity, and give you energy to tackle the next workshop or vendor hall.”
21) Window Shop
“Many a mom who was just curious about the “homeschooling thing” have gone to a convention only to walk away with a deep sense of purpose that this is the best option for their family. Window shop, see what is available to you. You are surrounded by people who all have at least one thing in common, they believe in some aspect of home education. Ask other parents while you are browsing, what do you like about this curricula? Ask vendors why theirs is the one you should be interested in, just see what is out there. Window shop the vendors, listen to the speakers, get a feel for this world, you will walk away enriched in some way, this is a promise.”
22) Come with a Skeletal Curriculum Plan
“I encourage you, folks, to attend, but leave your wallets at home. This will prevent you from buying many unnecessary items that you may/may not ever end up using.) A convention center filled with eager/convincing vendors can be quite overwhelming to anyone, especially someone who does not necessarily have a basic, working idea of what they are and are not looking for. I always come with a skeletal plan of what vendors I know I NEED to visit and which items I am considering for purchase. Not that I always stick to my plan like glue…I consider it very FLUID…and allow myself to have a change of heart. But, by having a basic plan, I do not get lured into buying “wants” as easily, and therefor stay closer to my pre-determined budget.”
23) Know What You Don’t Need
“Nothing helps reduce exhibit hall anxiety like knowing what booths you can overlook. Some stuff you just don’t need. One might be for children of different ages than yours, another might address a subject you don’t plan to cover, and yet another may not fit your approach to homeschooling. With a little experience, you’ll learn what products and services you just don’t need.”
24) Comparison Shop
“Many vendors carry the same products, often times at different prices. Shop around, your wallet will thank you! Don’t buy anything your first trip through the book fair. If you’re staying overnight, don’t buy anything the first day. Collect information from vendors, browse the products and then find a quiet place to process your thoughts and make your final shopping plan.”
25) Have Fun!
“After spending all day listening to the speakers and shopping for curriculum, take some time to unwind and make memories with your family at the special events! Whether you listen to a motivational speaker or laugh with the comedians, you’re family will enjoy reconnecting at the end of the day.”
Homeschool Convention Guide
Attending a homeschool convention can be a challenge. This guide is offered to help you become the victorious conqueror of the homeschool convention.
“The best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley.” That’s Robert Burns. But maybe you haven’t gotten that far in British Lit this year, because it has just been a grind and You. Are. Just. So. Done. We get it. Homeschooling is exhausting, mentally and physically. Accept that we’re only human as parents and give yourself – and your student – a break! We’ve collected homeschool burnout advice from experienced homeschoolers.
Homeschool Burnout Tips
1) Don’t Feel Guilty
“I have heard homeschool moms talk about the guilt they feel because they are at the end of the school year and they only have 178 days of school logged instead of 180. I talked to a lot of homeschool moms as a part of my job at one point. Shortly after talking with these moms, God blessed me by allowing me to attend a Bible study that just happened to be full of public school teachers. I was amazed to learn what they considered to be a “school day,” especially toward the end of the school year after standardized testing was finished. They would have whole days of just playing at the park—field days—and they would also have days where the kids would play video games for the lion’s share of the day. These days counted toward the 180-day requirement. Once I learned this, I wished I could go back and tell those worried moms about it.”
Source: Homeschooling Now (HSLDA)
2) Go Outside
“I promise you that it will help even when you don’t feel like going outside. Make yourself get out there for twenty minutes and see what happens. Your children will benefit, too. If you don’t believe me, read this book. It’s science!”
Source: Simple Homeschool
3) Learn to Say No
“The first reason we burn out is that we neglect ourselves. But the second reason is that we don’t know how to say no to others! In Portuguese, we have a saying: “We want to whistle and chew sugar cane at the same time.” We are addicted to busy. We want to do it all and that’s when stress comes in.
We need to learn our limits and create healthy boundaries in our lives. At first, people who are not used to it may find strange, especially if they don’t know what is happening to you. But believe me, this will not only give you immediate relief but also will produce major benefits in the long haul.
When someone asks you to bake a pie for an event, just say no! It might sound heartless, but if you don’t learn to say no now, you will fall back into the same trap or being busy and overwhelmed. I had to learn to say no even to myself!”
Source: Proverbial Homemaker
4) Don’t Be Overly Ambitious with Planning
“Guilty as charged. I can always tell newer homeschoolers or homeschoolers who will burnout quickly by the exhaustive lists of homeschool subjects they think they will cover.
Writing it down is key to being sure your list is doable.
When you simply list it, and not plug a homeschool subject into a time slot on your day, it stays as overly ambitious. The next step is hitting a brick wall and burnout follows.”
Source: Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus
5) Plan a Day with Friends
“One of our favorite things to do in the winter is celebrating our 100th day of school. We always do this with a big group of friends at a local museum. It helps break up the mundane of winter and gets us out and about. Plan something similar for you and your homeschool friends. Maybe it’s a day at a pizza place? A playdate at the mall? A trip to the local aquarium? Yes, the weather’s cold, but breaking up the winter months is important if you want to combat homeschool burn out.”
Source: Joy in the Journey
6) Try Unschooling for a Change
“This doesn’t have to be a long-term thing, unless you want it to be! Let your kids learn through daily life. Bake with them. Take them on errands with you. Visit the library and go on low-key field trips. There is so much learning that can be done in the real world that just can’t be picked up in any classroom – even a homeschool one.”
Source: iHomeschool Network
7) Seek Out Support
“Lack of support is most the most cited reason for ‘worker’ burnout. If you feel you are struggling to cope on your own, then you need to pull in support from family and friends.
Be more assertive in asking for help – or in accepting it from those who offer! Rope in the family – even small children can help with chores! I find that explaining that ‘Mummy really needs some help right now because she is struggling with things’ brings out the best in children – and they become eager to help.
Joining a homeschool group can also make a world of difference – no-one understands homeschool burnout like a fellow homeschooler! You can chat while the children play – and a problem shared is a problem halved.”
Source: Homeschooling Ideas
8) Organize with Spreadsheets
“Create a spreadsheet with subjects and curriculum for each child. Break down your lesson plan into segments: by year, semester, quarter, and week. Delegate authority – give your children responsibility for chores and school assignments. Create a school planner, even if it’s a simple store-bought weekly/monthly calendar. If you are able, use a digital system to keep your school records and cut your paper trail. Search features in software will save you a ton of searching time if you grade your children’s papers. You can also enlist your kids in helping to create their own portfolios – having them sort through each week’s papers to purge and keep their best work.”
Source: The End in Mind
9) Consider Year-Round Schooling
“If you have several children all at different levels and work part or full time, consider year-round schooling. This can often allow you to take short, regular breaks when life gets in the way but still maintain a schedule and not get behind in your studies. It can often be overwhelming to come back after a long summer break and feel the need to do a lot of review; year-round schooling can help with both of those issues.”
Source: Demme Learning
10) Declutter & Rearrange Your Homeschool Space
“I don’t know about you, but for me, all the neatness and organization that we began with at the start of the homeschool year has become one big pile of clutter. Clean out a closet. Organize school supplies. Sometimes, you just need to feel accomplished with something. And you’ll be one step ahead at the start of the new year.
Source: Ben and Me
11) Take a Reading Day
“Snuggling on the couch or under a shade tree and reading aloud to the children is a wonderful way for me to feel reconnected to them while feeding my soul. Children learn far more than you’d expect by being read aloud to.”
Source: Nourishing My Scholar
12) Go on a Field Trip
“Have an impromptu field trip to escape for the day. Use it to head outdoors and enjoy time with your kids. Whether you go to a museum, park, or any other location away from home. Make it a day to just have fun and not worry about school.”
Source: Life of a Homeschool Mom
13) Homeschool With Another Family
“If you know some kids in your area who homeschool as well, team up and have a homeschool day. This is a fun way for kids and parents to get to interact with some other people. Have them come to your home or you go to theirs for a day of school. It really changes things up and you will be amazed to walk away feeling like it was a productive and fun day.”
Source: Home Made Lovely
14) Take Regular Breaks
“Take regular breaks. Do not neglect yourself. Yes, you have heard that before and you need to hear it again. Take breaks for you and have your kids take breaks from you and their siblings. Sometimes there is simply too much closeness. Take an hour in the afternoon for everyone to get some alone time reading. You certainly can take breaks together at the park or playing games or even a field trip. Even a simple change of routine or scenery can get everyone back on track.”
Source: Talking Mom 2 Mom
15) Take Care of Yourself
“Sometimes burn out has nothing to do with homeschooling. When you spend all of your time doing things for everyone else like planning lessons, cooking meals, or running the kids back and forth to activities, you can lose yourself a bit in the shuffle. Do something just for yourself. Get a haircut, spend some time alone and read a good book, take a relaxing bath, eat some chocolate – I’m convinced all problems can be solved with chocolate. Be sure you are taking care of yourself – drink enough water, eat well, get enough sleep, and try to fit in a little exercise (I say this as much to myself as I do to you). When you take care of yourself, you’ll have the energy to face everything else.”
Source: Build Your Library
We think Spelling You See is the best spelling program out there. Just a smidgen of bias, maybe? Maybe, but it’s based on solid educational research and follows the way people learn language. It has proven results with students from a range of ages and abilities. It’s different, but it’s not difficult. But we’re willing to admit that it may not be for everyone. If you can strongly relate to any of the following statements, you might want to consider another choice.
12 Reasons Why You Will Hate Spelling You See
1) There Are No Spelling Lists
If your idea of a spelling lesson is rote memorization of a list of twenty loosely-related words, presented out of context, that are written and regurgitated over and over in hopes of drumming them into long-term memory, then you will be disappointed.
2) There Are No Tests
Why? Because tests are a great measure of a student’s short-term list memory, but not of whether they are imprinting the proper spelling of a word into long-term visual memory. Think of your grocery list from the week of April 27, 2005. You can’t? That’s because list memory is short term and is regularly overwritten like an old computer file. You’ll know your student is learning when you see ongoing improvement in all of their written work and an increased number of correct words in dictation.
Related blog post: 3 Reasons Why Spelling Tests Don’t (Always) Work
3) It Doesn’t Teach Rules
Fair enough, it doesn’t. It also, therefore, doesn’t need to spend all that time teaching all the exceptions to those “rules.” English doesn’t play nicely with spelling rules or phonics once you’ve moved beyond consonant-short vowel-consonant words, and some students can get extremely frustrated and discouraged by this: “Whaddya mean, it’s wrong? I applied the rule!” As students progress through the program and are already strong in their skill development, they’ll be introduced to appropriate rules in a natural progression.
4) The Reading Level Is Too Easy
Yes, but that’s on purpose. Encoding (spelling and writing) and decoding (reading) are two very different processes. It’s quite possible for a student to be an outstanding, advanced reader, but a terrible speller. We don’t want students to struggle with decoding while they’re focusing in on their spelling.
5) Time’s Up, But We’re So Close to Finished So We Don’t Want to Stop
We admire your dedication, but there’s a reason we advise you to set a timer and stop after ten minutes. That’s about how long we can really focus on a task, especially when we’re kids. So when the timer goes off, pencils down. Count the number of correct words. As your student gains more spelling fluency and confidence, this number will go up.
6) My Kid is Too Old for the Program, So It’s Too Late to Start Now
A cool fact about Spelling You See is that it can improve spelling fluency for most struggling spellers, regardless of reading level or age. Our short rhymes and passages are intended to be easy reading but are still remarkably effective at developing long-term visual memory of proper spelling. If you have a unique situation (and who doesn’t?), feel free to contact a curriculum consultant in customer service or sales for a custom recommendation.
7) It’s the Same Passage Every Day for a Whole Week
That’s true. Research shows that repeated reading and repeated writing of passages cement proper spelling in visual memory. Have you ever written a word and thought, “That just doesn’t look right…”? That’s your visual memory at work. When students can close their eyes and “see” the proper spelling, that’s what puts the “See” into “Spelling You See.” Plus our passages include interesting, factual content that all ages can appreciate. They’ve even been known to spark an interest in new topics!
8) Students Don’t Have to Correct Their Mistakes or Write Misspelled Words Ten Times or Anything!
When a word is spelled incorrectly in copywork, you’ll ask the student to erase it and copy it or write it correctly. It’s important to address misspellings immediately so that there’s no time for that misspelling to get into long-term memory. If your level involves a second dictation, encourage your student to write a problem word several different ways and “see” which one looks right (hence the name “visual” memory). As for writing missed words multiple times, that just creates negativity in the student as it can be seen as a punishment. We want to keep learning positive and relaxed and as much fun as possible.
9) It’s Suspiciously Easy
It really is, isn’t it? It seems too simple to work. Each activity involved is developed to take no more than 10 minutes, since that’s about how long our brains can pay attention to something. And we’re serious about not wanting our students to be stressed out. Stress short-circuits learning. So we provide lists of letter chunks to be identified in each lesson, and we encourage you to provide as much help as needed during dictation (we’ll provide direction on how to help appropriately, don’t worry).
10) Nobody Needs to Write by Hand Anymore; Keyboarding Skills Are Far More Important
Yes and no; while keyboarding is clearly a valuable, necessary skill in today’s world, it doesn’t create the same neural pathways in the brain as writing by hand. This is the same reason we don’t use letter tiles or games or apps. Putting pencil to paper and forming one letter at a time helps encode a word into long-term visual memory like no other method can.
11) It’s So Different From Other Programs
But…but that’s a good thing, right? Have you seen some of those other programs? Tests every day, list after list after neverending list, focusing solely on missed words and making kids feel like bad spellers…that sounds like cruel and unusual punishment. A spelling program that works and doesn’t involve any weeping or gnashing of teeth – what a breath of fresh air!
12) All That Talk of “Chunking” Makes Me Crave Chocolate Chunk Cookie Dough
Mmmmmm…chocolate chunk ice cream…chocolate chunk brownies…chocolate chunk cookies…No? Seriously…no one else? Just me? Okay, then. Never mind.
We can’t guarantee that we can change your mind and make you love Spelling You See. We just hope we’ve given you something to think about. Get in touch and ask us hard questions – we’re up for the challenge, and you might decide to make a change that will put your child on the road to becoming a confident speller.
The recent updates and expansion of the Math-U-See Manipulatives app earned an award for the Demme Learning team and our developers, d’Vinci Interactive. The Davey Awards honor the best in web, design, video, advertising, mobile, and social from agencies worldwide. We were recognized in the educational website category.
The Math-U-See Manipulative Tool allows students to practice mathematical concepts that are learned when working with our physical blocks and curriculum. The tool enables students from preschool through Algebra 1 to work through a full range of mathematical concepts, including numbers and counting, operations, fractions, decimals, integers, and algebraic expressions.
Why would we develop an app, you might wonder? We already have integrated manipulatives from Primer through Algebra 1, after all. But “[r]esearch shows that the more ways we can represent information, the more likely it is that students will master and retain concepts. The app provides another way to ‘see’ math, presented via a medium that kids enjoy,” said Marianne Smith, our Director of Product Development. In addition, the app provides a tidy way to take Math-U-See on the go, suiting the lives of busy homeschool families.
The app is available at the Apple, Google, and Amazon App stores. It can also be used online through any browser as part of the Demme Digital Packs, available for Math-U-See levels Primer through Algebra 1 at our online store.
At Demme Learning, we trust parents. That concept started with Steve Demme, the founder of Math-U-See. You may know a little about the program Steve considers his “baby;” you might even use it. But have you ever wondered why it’s in such a different order than other curricula, or why manipulatives are used all the way through Algebra 1, or ? As he says, “I don’t believe there’s any better teacher than a parent. And I feel like my job is simply to help you to be a better math teacher than you would be without me.” Our goal is to partner with you to find the best way to teach your children.
Deductive vs. Inductive Learning
The basic premise of Math-U-See is that the parent and child will work together through examples of each concept by building with the blocks, writing problems, and taking turns explaining to each other (a method we call “build, write, say.”) Work through as many problems as it takes for your student to say, “Now I get it!” or “Oh, I see!”
Traditional math instruction, the kind that many of us parents had in a classroom setting, is deductive learning. That means an instructor presents and teaches the lesson, provides information, illustrates examples, and explains as best they can. Think of the example of a college lecture. The students listen and watch, then do the best they can to replicate the process with the homework assignments and so on.
Math-U-See’s approach is inductive. Home educators, by definition, are not classroom teachers. Rather, they are tutors. An advantage for tutors is that they can customize instruction to fit the learning preferences of their students. They can be far more interactive and allow students to have hands-on, real-time practice. They can also ask questions and make observations to determine whether a child is mastering a concept. This inductive style works to create a lifelong love of learning, and in fact, many classroom models have turned to inductive learning. In Steve’s words:
…as a parent/teacher, instead of perhaps spewing information all the time, as good as it might be, you might be doing a disservice to your child and you might be a better teacher if you just asked questions—a little bit of the Socratic method as opposed to the didactic and just the deductive.
By interacting with your student, you will validate their ideas. You might be surprised by the creativity or intuition they demonstrate. For instance, the “block clock” we use to teach telling time was actually developed by a student in the early days of Math-U-See. If your student uses the blocks in a different way or demonstrates a problem differently, ask “What’s your thinking? Why did you do that?” rather than “No, that’s not right,” or “That’s not how I showed you.” You might find a new way of approaching problems and your student will probably retain the concept more effectively. You’re also allowing your child to become a problem solver and cultivate their innate intelligence.
4 Math-U-See Components
1) Video Lessons
How do the different components of Math-U-See work together to create an opportunity for inductive learning? Each lesson has a video component in which Steve demonstrates how to present a concept, using the manipulatives where needed. While the videos are for parents to internalize the concepts for teaching, many students enjoy watching the lesson right along with their parent (besides being a great math teacher, Steve is a lovable goofball!).
2) Instruction Manual
There are also written instructions in the Instruction Manual, providing slightly different examples and suggestions for practice. Many parents have expressed their pleasant surprise at finally understanding math concepts that they never fully mastered during their own education. The videos and written instruction complement each other and are intended to be used in tandem.
3) Math Manipulatives
Then there are the manipulatives for all levels through Algebra 1. It’s one thing to watch somebody doing an Olympic event or to watch someone playing a professional sport. It looks easy! But it’s another thing to do it yourself. Even if your students only need to use the blocks one time before they get it, that’s fine. Using them still provides another method of representing a problem. Research shows that the more different ways we are exposed to information, the more likely it is that we will retain that information. Feel free to mix things up—let your student be the teacher for a day! Teaching it back is an excellent way to demonstrate mastery of a concept.
4) Student Workbook
Once you’ve introduced the concept and your student has a pretty firm grasp of what’s going on, it’s time to practice. That’s where the Student Workbook comes in. Levels include five or six pages per lesson. The first three are usually Lesson Practice pages that cover the new concept introduced in the lesson. Do as many or as few of those as necessary for you to be confident that your student has mastered the concept. The remaining pages for each lesson are Systematic Review pages. These pages are important for retention of concepts that have been previously introduced. We also provide a test for each lesson, which can be used as an extra practice page if you don’t do tests in your homeschool. The tests are a useful tool to ensure mastery; when we make it so easy to learn a new concept, kids go quickly and think they’ve got it. “But do they really? Do they really know 9 x 5 is 45, just like that? Or do they have to go 9, 18, 27, 35, 45? If they’re still skip counting, they haven’t learned multiplying by 9, they’ve learned how to skip count. Multiplication by 9 is 9 x 6 is 54.” The test can confirm that yes, they really do get it.
There are many different ways of presenting a Math-U-See lesson; there’s no prescribed way or timeline. But in Steve’s words, “I’m just telling you as the guy that wrote the program, this is how I wrote it to be done.” We hope this behind-the-scenes look at the program gives you some ideas on how you can customize for your student’s specific needs and learning preferences.
Related Blog Post
Many people wonder how they should use the Math-U-See manipulatives to teach math. If you don’t use them properly, they are not going to be very helpful. They are such an integral part of the Math-U-See program that it might be useful to understand Steve Demme’s intention in creating them in the first place.
Steve believes that math is a topic that is learned to be applied in real life. This real-life application is usually demonstrated in curriculum in the form of word problems. In order to use math in real life, it’s important that students not only know formulas and procedures, but that they also know the concepts behind the procedures, and the formulas. In other words, to understand “how” to solve a problem, but also “why” we solve it that way, and even “when” the solution requires multiplication, division, even algebra.
Steve and Math-U-See use a number of little “tricks” that help students memorize math facts, such as acronyms, mnemonics, and visualizations. But if the student doesn’t have a healthy grasp of the whole concept of math, they are unable to be good problem solvers when faced with real life scenarios.
Related blog post: Make Memorizing Math Facts Fun With These 10 Activities
So WHY Use Manipulatives For Teaching Math?
First, in the decimal system, place value is an essential concept to master. No matter how small or large the number, we only have the digits 0-9 to represent it. We can use those digits in conjunction with place value to demonstrate every number that we can show, regardless of size. The physical characteristics defined for the Integer Blocks and associated with digits carry through the Algebra/Decimal Inserts and the Fraction Overlays.
For instance, consider the number 134 (see the image above). That would be one hundred, three tens, and four units. We write the number 1 and, because it is in the hundreds place, it is telling us how many hundreds we have – one hundred, or 100. The same is true for the 3 in the tens column – three tens, or 30. And in the units column, we have four units, or 4. (Notice we don’t call it the “ones” column – one, or 1, is a number. We use the term “units” to clearly differentiate between the place and the number.)
Studies have shown that American students often don’t truly understand place value. An example was done comparing Asian students with American students. When presented with a set of manipulatives, the students were asked to demonstrated the number 42. Asian students selected four 10s (40) and two units (2). American students selected 42 units placed in a long line, demonstrating a lack of understanding of the power of place value.
Place value, using our base-10 system, is essential for truly understanding math concepts. So Steve created the Math-U-See Integer Blocks. Not only can they demonstrate place value of integers, but also place value of the unknown, or x. By adding the Algebra/Decimal Inserts, the concept of x is illustrated and polynomials can be represented in a concrete way. We use the same colors as the Integer Blocks, but add inserts that present a smooth surface. The colors remind students of the proper placement with regards to place value: units are still the smallest, then x, then x2 and so on. If a student has been taught base 10 with our manipulatives, students can build on what they’ve already mastered and algebra becomes much more understandable. The relationship between arithmetic and algebra becomes clear. While we might think they are two separate disciplines, they’re definitely not. Using the manipulatives demonstrates the connection.
The Algebra/Decmial Inserts are effective for teaching algebra for several reasons. They’re synchronized with the base 10 Integer Blocks: same colors, same shapes. Our Fraction Overlays start with the green unit block and block it up big, to five inches by five inches, so that when it’s cut into smaller sections, they’re still visible and understandable. The colors of the Fraction Overlays mirror the colors of the Integer Blocks: halves are orange; thirds, pink; fourths, yellow; and so on.
So, there a reason behind the sizes, colors, and shapes of all of the manipulatives that carries through each level.
An example of a technique learned early on that can be applied in later learning is using the blocks to create a rectangle when demonstrating multiplication. This concept can then be extended to geometry concepts such as base times height for the area of a rectangle, or 1/2 base times height for a triangle, or determining the perimeter of a shape. Visuals such as the multiplication rectangle make it easier to see where the formulas come from. Many students in other programs memorize the formulas with no understanding of what is actually happening in the problem. We use blocks to demonstrate the Pythagorean theorem or to factor trinomials or polynomials. By illustrating the concept, students understand the bigger picture of where the formula comes from and can retain and apply the information when appropriate, rather than just memorizing with no conceptual understanding.
But HOW Do You Use Manipulatives to Teach?
The definitive answer is: it depends. The manipulatives are an illustration of a concept. The goal is understanding. Steve says, “Math-U-See really means Math-U-Understand.” To understand a concept, many kids have to see it. Some students can learn from talking abstractly about things, but many more benefit from actually seeing an example and having the opportunity to model concepts themselves. Research shows that the more different ways one is exposed to a concept, the more likely they are to understand and retain it. Math-U-See has always looked for concrete, real-life examples and illustrations of math concepts, from using a belt to explain circumferences to using ceiling tiles to demonstrate area. Using only our three different manipulative kits, math concepts can be demonstrated from Primer through Algebra 1.
To use the manipulatives to demonstrate a concept to a student, it’s important that you, the teacher, understands the concept and how the manipulatives illustrate it. Watch the lesson video first; they’re designed for the instructor and model how to use the manipulatives. Read the lesson in the Instruction Manual. Take the examples and, using the appropriate manipulatives, demonstrate the concept over and over until your student says, “Oh, I see!” or the equivalent. This will look very different with each student, or even with the same student learning different concepts. Some will quickly achieve that “aha!” moment, while other concepts may take more time.
The Build, Write, Say, Teach It Back approach is very effective with Math-U-See. Using the manipulatives to build a problem, students then write the math problem and say, or explain, what is happening in the problem. When students say, “Oh, now I get it,” it’s tempting to just take their word for it. That’s why we ask them to teach the concept back to us and demonstrate their mastery. That way, we can be sure that they’ve grasped the concept. Math is sequential and builds from concept to concept, so it’s critical that mastery and understanding is achieved before moving on.
As Steve Demme says:
Most people will solve a math problem by writing it down. Most people will see a math problem by having to read it. Prices are on the menus at Wendy’s. You have to read numbers. So writing is the predominant way that math is expressed and solved.
Math-U-See adds two additional components to writing the problem: Build It and Say It. The more different ways you interact with a concept, the more likely it is that you will not only understand, but also learn and retain the knowledge. We emphasize building with the manipulatives and explaining verbally what we’ve built, so that we’re using our eyes, ears, mouths, touch, at the same time that we write. Later, when we write a problem, we are visualizing the blocks and hearing in our heads how to do the problem. Finally, we add one more component: Teach It Back, to demonstrate mastery of the concept. Once mastery is demonstrated, your student is ready to move to the next concept.
The manipulatives are not a crutch. They are simply a concrete way to illustrate a concept. In Math-U-See, we illustrate abstract concepts in a concrete way that is new to most people, whether students or instructors. This leads to many “aha!” moments for parents, not only for students. As students master the material and internalize it, they will begin to wean themselves away from the blocks or other manipulatives. Because all children are unique, there is no single foolproof way to use the manipulatives. We recommend beginning with the plan we provide, but experiment until you find the best approach for each child. Be open to adapting to their learning preferences. Learn what their “aha!” moments look like. If you use the manipulatives how they’re intended to be used, you may be pleasantly surprised at how easy teaching and learning math can be.
You love Math-U-See. Your kids are thriving with it, and building problems with the manipulatives makes everything so clear and understandable! But…Joey has quiz team, Sarah has soccer, and Jenny has dance. Taking the blocks in the van is a nightmare! But skipping math isn’t an option; neither is cutting out activities. What’s a busy homeschool family to do?
The Math-U-See app could be the answer!
• Designed for any tablet
• Unlimited blocks, fraction overlays, and algebra/decimal inserts
• Colors and functions just like physical product
• Pencil tool to write out problems as you build
• Different backgrounds include Decimal Street®, graph, grid
Visit your preferred app store today and get the Math-U-See Manipulatives App for your tablet device. Because homeschooling doesn’t always happen at home.
Get tips on how to use the app, answers to frequently asked questions, or contact us for support.
With almost 30 years of successfully teaching math the Math-U-See way, we’re pretty confident that there’s a little something for everyone in our program. But we’re willing to admit, we might not be for everyone. We’re all about empowering our customers, not about just making the sale, so here’s a helpful list of things to consider before taking the plunge or making the switch.
If you agree with one or more of the following statements, Math-U-See just might not be your cup of tea.
12 Reasons You Will Hate Math-U-See
1) You want to figure out how to teach math concepts on your own through trial and error.
We provide complete teacher support, with videos showing how to use the manipulatives, supported by a written explanation in the Instruction Manual for each lesson. Important vocabulary is introduced and suggestions for additional practice, such as activities or games, are often provided. Maybe this seems like cheating, or maybe you think there’s nothing you can learn about how best to teach math concepts. We don’t want to step on your toes!
2) You believe students should be placed by grade level, not skill level or understanding.
We don’t align with grade levels, and we don’t try to. We believe that math builds upon itself and that fully mastering a concept before moving on to the next one creates a firm foundation of understanding that will benefit students as they progress. For example, successful mastery of fractions is essential to succeeding in algebra and higher math. If a 15-year-old student needs to back up and review, they will probably be more receptive to and less stressed about working in Epsilon: Fractions than “Fifth Grade Math.”
3) You think kids should be required to do every single page of their workbook.
Our levels include three Lesson Practice pages, focusing on the new concept, and two or three Systematic Review pages, practicing both new and previously learned concepts. If your student shows mastery of the concept, there’s no need to complete all the worksheets. We encourage you to move at your student’s pace, taking as much or as little time as needed. We provide additional practice problems for many lessons with our online Worksheet Generator.
4) You don’t mind having no idea whether your student “gets” a concept.
With our “Build it, Write it, Say it, Teach it back” method, you’ll know when your student has mastered a concept. Move to the next lesson quickly, or spend as long as you need.
5) You think math should never be fun or silly.
Our founder Steve Demme draws on his own life experiences to provide helpful tips and tricks to memorize math facts or explain concepts. Most of them, like Mr. Demme himself, are funny or silly. That’s why they’re memorable; whether you love corny jokes or you hate them, you’ll remember – and quite possibly make the vacuum sucking noise (at least mentally) every time you’re doing your 9s facts.
6) It’s enough to know how to do math problems; there’s no need to understand why you do it that way.
This comes down to the question, why do we learn math? Mr. Demme’s answer is quite simple: “To do word problems.” Which is true, so far as real-life applications are concerned. You’ll probably never be asked to do a math worksheet in your adult life. But, need to double a recipe? Want to leave an appropriate tip? Need to find the most cost-effective way to ship a birthday present to Great-Aunt Gladys? You have to know what math concept applies (“why”) before you can apply it (“how”). No one is going to be standing there telling you whether to add, subtract, multiply, or divide. (If there is, that’s maybe a little weird, don’t you think?)
7) It’s crazy expensive, what with the blocks and everything you need!
It might be tempting to skip purchasing the Integer Block Kit, but keep these things in mind. One, you’ll use the same blocks from Primer all the way through Algebra 1, so, while there is an initial investment, it will support eight or nine years of learning – not additional students coming up through the program. Two, our manipulatives are an integral part of our curriculum, because they work and form the basis of the “see” portion of Math-U-See. Current educational research supports the way we integrate our manipulatives into learning. Three, our blocks (and Instruction Manuals) have great resale value!
8) I want a curriculum that will teach my kid for me, not one where I have to do the teaching.
A common misconception about Math-U-See’s videos is that they’ll teach the entire lesson to your student. They’re actually intended to demonstrate to the instructor how to use the manipulatives and present the concept. There’s certainly no harm in students watching the videos but they’re intended to be used in connection with the Instruction Manual.
9) It’s in a weird order, so we’ll be stuck using it forever.
Math-U-See is organized differently than other math curricula, at least for the first six or seven levels, but it’s quite straight-forward in the progression. We thoroughly cover single-digit addition and subtraction, followed by multi-digit addition and subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, and decimals and percents, with other concepts (like telling time or counting money, for instance) introduced where appropriate along the way. So it might be more complicated to jump in and out of other curricula in these levels, but we provide an interactive placement guide to help you determine exactly where to start. After these lower levels, our upper levels follow a pretty standard progression from pre-algebra through calculus.
10) Using manipulatives to demonstrate concepts all the way through Algebra 1 is childish and unnecessary.
Let’s get real for a minute. How many of us understood what we were actually doing when we were factoring polynomials? Watch Steve Demme demonstrate it with the blocks, and you will. And since the goal of Math-U-See is mastery, your student will use the manipulatives as much or little as needed; there’s no one right way to do it.
11) My kid isn’t a “kinesthetic learner” so the blocks are a waste of time.
With Math-U-See, concepts are introduced using the manipulatives, which enables students to “see” the concepts, first physically and then mentally as they progress to algorithms, formulas, and other symbolic representations. Research has shown that students who are able to represent problems correctly are better able to connect conceptual knowledge with procedural skill, which leads to improved performance in math.1 Which is a fancy way to say that manipulatives can lead to understanding for any kind of learning preference.
12) You think that puns are the lowest form of humor.
Well, you’ve got us on this one. If you can’t stomach puns – if you really can’t get past them – you’re probably going to hate Math-U-See. But if you can ignore them, we think you’ll find that Math-U-See is an engaging, flexible, effective math curriculum that will equip your student to succeed in math and build curiosity to become a lifelong learner. You never know, you may even learn to love puns…or at least forgive us for them.
So what do you think? Ready to give us a shot? Schedule a free consultation today to find out how Math-U-See can work for you.
Want five reasons why you might like Math-U-See? Read what brought Gretchen our way!
1 Rittle-Johnson, B., Siegler, R. S., & Alibali, M. W. (June 2001). Developing conceptual understanding and procedural skill in mathematics: an iterative process. Journal of Educational Psychology, 93(2), 346-362
While the idea of creating a homeschool transcript might seem overwhelming or intimidating, it’s really just another way of tracking your student’s progress and sorting it into a format that is accessible and understandable by post-secondary opportunities.
Even if you live in a state that does not require you to report your homeschooling agenda to them, it’s in your child’s best interest for you to keep track of their accomplishments so they have fewer hurdles when it’s time for post-secondary education or career options. Most higher education requires a transcript for consideration for admission. The military and many other jobs also require a high school diploma or equivalent. Creating a homeschool transcript is easier than you might think; it just involves keeping track and planning ahead, things you’re probably already doing on your homeschool journey. Here are a few simple tips:
3 Tips for Creating a Homeschool Transcript
1) Plan Ahead
We just said this, but: Plan ahead! Most states require some sort of record-keeping, which can help, but if yours doesn’t, make sure you have a plan for what you need to record starting before your student enters “9th grade,” or before they begin taking classes that can count toward fulfilling state graduation requirements. That means…
2) Know Your State’s Requirements
You should know your state’s requirements for graduation. Each state is different. Often there are diploma services that you can use that are specific to your state that can provide you with the requirements. You can also search for “[My State] high school graduation requirements.” Even if you choose not to follow the state requirements exactly, it’s a great guide to what future employers and higher education institutions are looking for.
3) Use Descriptive Course Names
Use descriptive course names when appropriate. If the curriculum or course name doesn’t clearly state what requirement is being fulfilled, feel free to change it to be more specific for the transcript. For instance, rather than using the more generic “Science,” you would want to state “Biology” or “Chemistry” or the appropriate focus if applicable. Using descriptive, familiar language will make the transcript more understandable for those reviewing it.
Homeschool Transcript Sample
There are loads of great resources and advice to be found on the internet. One source that has aggregated a lot of great information is the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).
HSLDA has provided homeschool transcript samples, preparation resources, and much more more.
The most important thing to remember is that this is a component of your student’s secondary education that they will need in their post-high school life. By documenting their achievements, you’re sparing them (and yourself!) from trying to recreate their academic record from memory. By keeping an ongoing log, you’re simplifying the process. It doesn’t need to be difficult or overwhelming; after all, you’ve already done the hard work of homeschooling!
At Demme Learning, we trust parents to make wise and loving decisions about their kids’ educations. We don’t only trust homeschool parents, or public school parents, or any other specific kind of parents. Engaged parents are crucial to children’s success at becoming life-long learners, regardless of their selected method of instruction.
Our primary goal in developing educational products is to provide essential resources to evaluate their child’s understanding that adapt to how their child learns, with clear instructions and simple yet effective methods.
4 Ways That Demme Learning is Unique
1) Clear, Explicit Instructions
We provide directions for instructor and students for each lesson in a variety of ways so there’s no guessing at what to do each day. You’ll know where to start and when you’re finished. Lessons are broken into small, active chunks so kids don’t get bored or restless. And we provide clear guidelines so you know when your student is ready to move on.
2) Curriculum That Meets Your Child Where They’re At
We don’t assume that a certain age means a certain ability or skill level. In fact, you won’t find grade levels at all in our curriculum. We provide clear, simple placement guides to ensure your student starts at the right place to address any gaps.
3) Lessons That Don’t Assume “One Size Fits All”
Students can move as quickly or slowly as necessary in our curricula. For instance, if your student quickly masters a math concept, there’s no need to complete all of the workbook pages. Move on to the next concept; we provide plenty of systematic review, don’t worry.
4) The Ultimate in Customer Service
An experienced support team ready to provide the ultimate in customer service. Everyone says that they have outstanding customer service, but ours is truly exceptional. Many of them have used our curriculum themselves with their own students. You will never feel rushed when you call; we’re happy to talk through any issue, whether specific to the curriculum or even if you’re just having a bad day and need an adult to talk to. Our goal is to provide “The Ultimate in Customer Service.” If we don’t meet that level for you, please let us know what we could do differently.
We know you have a lot of choices and put a great deal of careful thought into how you spend your curriculum dollars. Thank you for considering us. Our commitment to you is to provide a top quality product with the best support possible. We think you’ll be pleased.