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About Laynee Shumate

Laynee Shumate is a Line Editor with Demme Learning. She is a homeschool graduate and received B.A.s in English and History from the University of Central Florida. She’s passionate about learning and believes education doesn’t stop at graduation. She enjoys playing music, reading, writing, and playing board games, but most importantly she enjoys having fun with family and friends.

How to Motivate Your Child to Read

Motivate your child to read with these practical tips.

There are books sitting on the shelf, it’s a rainy weekend afternoon, but your child is not diving into a single book. You might be thinking to yourself, “Am I not raising a reader?” Maybe you started reading to your child at a very early age and still have family reading time. While this might have planted the reading seed inside of them, there’s watering that needs to be done in order to help that seed bloom. Here are some steps you can take to change your unmotivated reader’s mindset and encourage them to delve into more books.

Motivate Your Child to Read With These 5 Tips

1) Broaden Opportunities

One of the best ways to motivate your child to read is by broadening their opportunities. Does your child have time to focus on reading? Is your family constantly busy? It’s possible your student isn’t choosing to read because they don’t have time.

Studies have shown that students who spend more time actually engaged in reading are more motivated to do so on a regular basis. This doesn’t just mean offering your student opportunities for educational reading. This means giving your child ample opportunity to leisurely sit down with a book uninterrupted. Set aside a specific amount of time each day that is dedicated to reading. Depending on your child’s age and reading level you can start with as little as five or ten minutes and increase the time as your child progresses. This will help them get used to reading regularly and will reinforce their reading skills.

2) Improve Selection

Motivation is also a matter of selection. Giving your child access to a variety of books is a great way to keep their interest in reading. Whether that means filling up your bookshelf at home or taking regular trips to the library, it is important that your child is not stuck with only a few books to pick from or one type of book.

Not all children will be motivated to read fictional books. See if your child enjoys reading non-fiction books at their reading level. Find a book about their favorite animal or favorite historic figure. Even a small change like giving your child more access to a variety of books can make a huge difference in their motivation.

3) Develop Self-Esteem Through Autonomy

Along with selection comes autonomy, which in turns develops self-esteem. While there might be books that you want your child to read, allowing them to select a few books of their own can renew their interest in reading. Even as adults we are usually more motivated to complete tasks that we want to do rather than things we have to do. Standing in front of a row of books, however, can be overwhelming, so help guide them in the process.

What draws them to a particular book? The description? The illustrations? These conversations will not only strengthen your child’s decision making skills but also your relationship as you learn how they think and what they enjoy. If your child never has the opportunity to pick out books that they are interested in, they’re motivation to continue reading could decline. Give your child the chance to pick out books they find intriguing.

4) Monitor Book Selection

It is also important that you are still monitoring their book selection. Children can make the mistake of selecting books outside of their reading level. These books will discourage your child as they struggle with the material. To combat this issue, designate a shelf to your child with anywhere from 5-20 books on it (fewer books for younger children to avoid decision paralysis). Make sure all of these books are within your child’s reading level, but also not so easy that they’ll get bored. Children experience the most motivation to read when they get to read texts on the upper limits of their reading level. These books challenge readers to advance their reading skills without overwhelming them. Most libraries also have books separated by reading level.

My mom would always designate one shelf that she knew was at my reading level and let me pick any book from it. The possibilities seemed endless and it encouraged me that I was able to read the books I chose. As your child sees their reading skills improving by the books they’re picking out, their motivation to continue reading will grow.

5) Be Mindful of Other Factors

Always keep in mind there may be other factors contributing to your child’s lack of motivation. I was the bookworm in my family, but my siblings were much less motivated to read. Despite our family reading time and practically living at the library, they still rarely read. It wasn’t until my sister was tested that major vision issues were revealed as the culprit behind her unwillingness to read, and my brother’s developmental challenges meant he needed a little more time to reach a comfortable reading level. Once these challenges were addressed, they both became much more avid readers. So if you’ve tried these and other tips and your child is still not wanting to read, start asking them what the words look like when they read or how reading makes them feel. This might reveal underlying issues besides motivation.

The most important thing to remember is to stay positive and always keep a growth mindset with your child. Berating them for not wanting to read will only demotivate them. Make sure to encourage and celebrate even small reading victories. Encouraging their hard work and perseverance will motivate them much more than acknowledging their lack of motivation. In the end, getting them to read even a little will benefit them now and later in life.

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Motivate your child to read with these practical tips.

3 Benefits of Math Doodling

Your student might be doodling because they’re distracted or bored, but they can still benefit from it, especially from math doodling.

You might think your student is distracted from their work when you see them doodling. You may even remember being bored in school yourself and doodling all over the page. Your student might be doodling because they’re distracted or bored, but they can still benefit from it, especially from math doodling. Math-focused doodling can help your child in so many ways. Not only can doodling help math make sense, but it allows your student to discover math concepts on their own and even derive enjoyment from math.

Math Doodling Benefits

1) It Make Math Concepts More Clear

One of the most noticeable benefits of math doodling is its ability to make math concepts more clear. This is due to the visual nature of doodling. Doodling allows students to take a subject generally considered complex, and represent it in a simple, understandable visual form. YouTube mathematician, Vi Hart, discusses this in the video “The Smoothest Ride.

Hart transforms Calculus into simply “Lookin at slopes” by using doodles. Hart does this by doodling what happens during a car ride when you accelerate, slam on the brake, and are subsequently jerked in your seat. Hart points out that people “have an intuition for calculus,” but most people don’t realize this until they can visually see it.

This visual element of doodling is extremely important in the learning process. Visual learning forces students to use different parts of their brain than learning using numbers and symbols. This gives students an opportunity to derive creative solutions to math problems. Dr. Jo Boaler, Professor of Mathematics Education at Stanford, claims that “Pictures help students see mathematical ideas…Visual mathematics also facilitates higher-level thinking, enables communication and helps people see the creativity in mathematics.” (Source) When your student is doodling, they are gaining a clearer, visual understanding of math.

2) It Promotes Self-Discovery

Another benefit of math doodling is that it promotes self-discovery. When your child is doodling, they start discovering rules and patterns. In the video “Doodling in Math Class: Stars,” Vi Hart shows how something as simple as doodling stars can turn into discovering the rules of factoring. Doodling might even allow a student to gain a firmer understanding of the material than being taught it from another source.

This process of self-discovery is crucial to your child’s learning experience. The more often your child is given the opportunity to discover an answer on their own or to learn a concept by trial and error, the more likely they are to retain what they’ve learned. Self-discovery gives your student a feeling of ownership over the knowledge that they have gained because it came from their own insight and intuition. As Dr. Boaler says, “When students are given opportunities to ask their own questions and to extend problems into new directions, they know mathematics is still alive, not something that has already been decided.” Math doodling gives your child this opportunity to ask questions and discover new, wondrous things about math.

3) It Brings Joy to Students

The most perceptible advantage of math doodling is the joy it brings students. Sometimes children have a negative perception of math. However, doodling is something your child chooses to do for fun. Math doodling makes math compelling. Your child may not initially see how their doodles relate to math. Maybe they’ve decided to doodle squiggles all over the page, but as ViHart says:

This is why I love mathematics. The moment when you realize something seemingly arbitrary and confusing is really part of something.

In school, I constantly doodled shapes. I would draw triangles, squares, and circles and see how many ways I could dissect them. If you had asked me then if I enjoyed geometry, I would have answered with a resounding no, but there I was having fun experimenting with geometric patterns. When I took my first college drawing class, I realized how much mathematics and art are entwined. I realized that doodling shapes and understanding their relationships had helped me understand geometry. Now I could calculate the perfect place to put my focal point in my artwork or where to draw a figure in the foreground. I was doing math without even realizing it, and I liked it too!

So let your child doodle. Let them draw squiggles and stars all over the page. It may seem like they’re playing games or ignoring their work. But maybe your child is discovering something new and fascinating. Maybe they are finding their own way to make math make sense and to make math fun! They might not even see the mathematics yet, but now you know it’s there waiting to jump out at them from the page.

5 Tips on Transitioning from Homeschool to College

As a college graduate reflecting back, these are a few of the tips that I wish someone would have given to me in transitioning from homeschool to college.

Walking into the local college at 15 years old to take my first class was an intimidating experience. Having been homeschooled from pre-k forward, I had no idea what to expect in a classroom setting, especially a college classroom. As a college graduate reflecting back, these are a few of the tips that I wish someone would have given to me:

1) Don’t Forget Your Due Dates

A huge benefit of being homeschooled is having flexibility. While my mother would let me postpone assignments due to extracurricular activities, my professors weren’t so lenient. If your professor tells you to turn an assignment in, turn it in on time. Unlike your parents, your professors aren’t concerned about your social activities. They expect you to turn assignments in when they are due with few exceptions. So make sure to keep track of your due dates and turn your assignments in on time.

2) Your Professor Is Not Your Parent

As a homeschooler, you get used to your parents teaching and grading your work. I knew exactly what my mother looked for in my papers and would write them accordingly. However, when I turned in my first paper to my English professor, he informed me of all the errors it contained. So, I got to know my professor and what he was looking for. Just like every parent is different, every professor is different too. If your professor has published work, review some of their writing to get a sense of their style. Go visit them during their office hours and ask them questions. Ask them how you could have done better on certain assignments. This will help you learn more about their teaching style and will show them that you care about your work.

3) Study Groups Are Your New Homeschool Co-op

Have you ever joined a homeschool co-op? I did, and I’m thankful for it. It taught me that a lot of learning can happen in group environments. This is why study groups are so important in college. During my first year of university, I decided to take Japanese. It was a very difficult class. Joining a study group allowed me to converse with my fellow classmates in Japanese and also gave me a chance to learn new ideas from them. They helped me see things in a different way. Don’t isolate your learning; join a study group.

4) Get Involved

One of my biggest regrets in college was not getting involved more. My homeschool years were full of sports, theatre, and volunteering. However, my college years were focused on academics. In my senior year of college, I took a class that taught students how to utilize their degree after college. That class stressed how important getting involved is. For us seniors, it was already too late. Get involved early. Join a club, volunteer, or complete a work study. Find things that interest you, and do them. This will not only help you to establish social relationships, which will help you learn how to network better, but will also show employers that you are able to balance multiple responsibilities.

5) Have a Plan, and Then Have Five Back-up Plans

When I was homeschooled, my parents knew what courses I needed to take. My input boiled down to picking out which curriculum I liked best. In college I had to stay much more proactive. I had to research my major requirements, figure out which classes I could take, and hope that they wouldn’t fill up before I registered. It can be a little overwhelming, so come up with a plan in advance. When course schedules are released, come up with a first choice, second choice, and even a third choice schedule.

Back-up plans help for your major too. I changed majors twice during my four years, and that’s ok. Don’t choose something simply because it sounds interesting. Make sure it’s what you want, and come up with multiple plans in case you discover it’s not.


Bonus! My number one tip for parents:

Let your student make mistakes.

This is the time for your child to take control of their education. I know it’s scary, but I promise they will be ok. They’re going to make mistakes. That’s how they’re going to learn. I had to remind my mom that just because I was telling her about my classes didn’t mean I needed her to remind me of various due dates. Sometimes I knew my mom was right, but I needed to learn that on my own. You’ve done a great job. You’ve gotten them this far, but now is your chance to stop running the race with them. Sit back, relax, cheer them on from the sidelines, and cry as they cross the finish line. They’ve got this!

As a college graduate reflecting back, these are a few of the tips that I wish someone would have given to me in transitioning from homeschool to college.

Mastering the Math-U-See Math Test

The idea of studying for a math test can seem like a daunting task for you and your student. This doesn’t have to be the case.

The idea of studying for a math test can seem like a daunting task for you and your student. Even the word “test” can elicit emotions of fear and doubt. This doesn’t have to be the case. The first step in preparing and studying for a test in the Math-U-See curriculum is making sure you and your student both understand the purpose behind the test. It’s not to see how many questions your student can get right; it’s to confirm student mastery. Once this is understood, studying for a Math-U-See math test will become a much more straightforward process.

Built Around Mastery

The Math-U-See curriculum is built around mastery. This is integral to understanding how to study for our math tests. What is mastery, and how do you know if your student has mastered the lessons? Simply put, mastery is when your student both understands and becomes proficient in a concept. The Math-U-See curriculum uses lessons that focus on a singular topic, allowing the student to fully comprehend what they’re learning before moving on to the next lesson. If you’d like more information on how to tell if your student has achieved mastery, check out our Student Mastery Guide. If mastery has been accomplished, then taking a test becomes a chance for your student to show the progress they’ve made instead of it being a challenge. The studying process becomes a simple process of review to make sure that mastery of that lesson has taken place.

Multiple Types of Tests

The Math-U-See program includes multiple types of tests including lesson tests, unit tests, and final exams. The lesson tests vary in style depending on the level your student is in (open answer or multiple choice). Studying for the different test types takes the same process. This is because the Math-U-See curriculum is built sequentially. This means that concepts build upon one another, so your student has a solid foundation before moving on to new material. The unit tests and final tests take the information your student has learned so far in the level and tests their mastery of that material. As students’ progress through the levels, some lesson tests even take on this approach. For example, in Algebra 2, the last few questions of the test pertain to information from previous lessons or even previous levels. If your student is mastering each lesson before moving on to the next, their strong foundation will support them through the tests. Preparing for these tests might take going back further in the level to rework previous concepts, but the approach is the same. Nevertheless, even with sequential learning and mastery there are still ways that test preparation can benefit your student.

Prepare With the Student Workbook

The good news is you have a customized preparation resource right at your fingertips: your student’s workbook. The first step you should take with your student is going back over their lesson worksheets. Locate areas where your student struggled. Are there any patterns that you notice? This can help you identify areas your student may need a little more review. Try not to just repeat back the formula or instructions to your student. Ask them questions, “Can you walk me through how you tried solving this problem?” or “Is there a different way you could have solved this?” These kinds of questions will give your student a chance to engage with the concept. It will also give you a chance to see where your student has mastered a concept and where they might need more time. If they need more practice, have your student go through another worksheet with you. Also, analyze the problems your student answered correctly, and ask them similar questions. This kind of dynamic will give your student a deeper understanding of the material so they can be ready for the test.

What Should You Do Next?

You’ve tried all this, and your student is still struggling with their tests. What should you do next? Maybe it’s time to evaluate if you are setting reasonable expectations for your student. How are you talking about the tests to your student? Are you getting upset with your student when they struggle with tests but do fine with the worksheets? Maybe you’ve developed a more fixed mindset instead of a positive growth mindset. If this is the case, try to adjust your thoughts and language toward tests. Ask your students questions and engage with the material. Realize that mastery is an ongoing process, and some students might take longer than others to achieve it. The point of the test is not to get all the answers correct, but to evaluate your student’s needs so that you can guide them in the right direction. Keep positive, and remember that studying doesn’t just begin right before the test but every time your student engages with math.