Sometimes in our schooling journey it can be wise to take a break from math. This need can be caused by a variety of reasons. Maybe your student has hit a wall with a particular concept. Perhaps you are experiencing a particularly difficult season in your homeschooling (your family has had a loss, a birth, a move, or maybe all three). It could be that you recognize there are gaps in your student’s understanding and there is a need to back up and review. You’re pursuing testing or a diagnosis of a learning struggle and need to reevaluate your approach for your student. Any of these can be a good reason to take a break from math.
What’s a “Math Break”?
What might a math break look like in real life? Do you stop doing math entirely? Sometimes, and that may be the best solution for your family.
Other times, it can simply mean taking a break from the current curriculum and focusing more on math games, math apps, reading math-related literature, or reviewing concepts. It could also include applying math to real-world applications such as cooking, budgeting, or building that occur outside of a workbook! Below are some additional ideas:
Math Games to Add to or Revisit From Your Collection
• Thinkfun Math Dice®
• Prime Climb by Math for Love
• Head Full of Numbers by Learning Resources
• Monopoly by Hasbro
• CASHFLOW by The Rich Dad Company
• Tenzi Dice Game by Tenzi
• Farkle by Legendary Games
Math Review Resources (by Michael Levin and Charan Langton)
• Verbal Math Lessons Vol. 1, 2 and 3
• Verbal Fractions
• Verbal Percents
Fun Literature-Based Math Stories (by Greg Tang)
• Math-terpieces: The Art of Problem Solving
• The Grapes of Math: Mind-Stretching Math Riddles
• Math Potatoes: Mind-Stretching Brain Food
Taking a break from the math routine may also alleviate symptoms of math anxiety. Math can be source of real anxiety for some students, and can impact their learning to the point where the brain actually shuts down. The hope is to find a curriculum and provide a learning environment where this type of academic anxiety doesn’t occur, but if it does happen, it is important to take steps to work through it.
Let me share my own personal experience and how a break in math curriculum benefited my math learning experience. Thinking back, math produced a lot of anxiety for me prior to 7th grade. I am the oldest of 5 kids and we were all homeschooled. My dad loved to get us all in the car for a family road trip (so I was trapped!) and would start throwing out word problems for us to solve to pass the time (yes, I am old and this was prior to all the technological devices available today that can be used to distract kids from the miles passing by).
Reflecting on those trips today brings a tightening to my chest and a feeling of mild panic. I would feel like a deer in the headlights, my mouth would go dry, and I would blurt out answers (often wrong), all the while my younger brother was beating me to the answers and getting them right (he was the math-blessed child of the family). It was frustrating and humiliating. I felt like I would never be confident in math.
Thankfully, this changed for me when our family began using Math-U-See. I re-learned foundational skills and addressed the many learning gaps I had from curriculum hopping. Finally, I achieved solid mastery of math concepts I had exposure to, but had not fully learned! Math-U-See helped me to beat the “math anxiety monster;” he is real and he is scary!
Sometimes we need to change the approach and teach math thinking outside the box. Facts can be another area where certain students struggle; memorization, memory, and recall can be weaker for some students and so we need to capitalize on their strengths (visual or auditory) So, for the visual student, modify your flash cards and include the answer under the problem so instead of 4+7=blank, write in the answer so it looks like this: 4+7=11 then drill with those modified flash cards; this engages their visual camera! They can then “take a picture” to remember and recall of all the information (problem and answer), not just a problem with what to them is missing information: no answer. If they are auditory, music can help so find facts set to music to listen to that are fun and catchy. Sometimes a very simple change in our approach can take a math situation from stress and struggles to confidence and success.
Once back on solid ground and confidence and mastery have been established, you can then reintroduce math instruction with renewed energy and move forward with success. Great leaps and major breakthroughs can happen after a very intentional and thoughtful break. My personal journey with math is an example of this.
Yet many parents shy away from taking a much-needed break for fear of falling behind. It is by far more important to make sure that mastery and understanding are attained to cultivate a lifelong enjoyable journey of learning of math than comparing ourselves to our peers. Just remember, comparison is the thief of joy. We want to keep the joy in our journey! Hopefully my story and suggestions help you to see that value can be added to the math learning experience by taking a break, regrouping, or changing the instructional approach completely. This is where you, as an engaged and aware parent, can make all the difference! Knowing your student’s learning strengths and building up their areas of weakness make all the difference. But again, we have to be aware of what this looks like and the path that is best for each student in our care, and make the most of our time learning together.
Is it time for a break yet??
You don’t have to look very hard to realize that math is around us all the time and impacts our lives on a daily basis.
Your students may not realize just how often they are encountering math in what they do every day.
Does anyone in your home play a musical instrument? Then they are using time signatures and notes, which all represent numbers and counting. And yes…that’s math!
Do you grocery shop? Most moms myself included feel like they live at the grocery store! Price comparison is something that I do every time I grocery shop for our large family of 8, I am always looking for the most bang for my buck and knowing how to use math to make sure I am getting the best deal is essential.
When I come home I am taking those ingredients I purchased and making meals and usually doubling, tripling or quadrupling my recipes, again math at work. There are many ways to incorporate math without sitting at the table doing a math lesson or working problems on paper.
Regardless, if math is your child’s favorite subject, or if math is a struggle, we cannot get through life without it.
Here are some great ways to incorporate math into your everyday living and get your kids involved in areas of life where math is impactful.
How to Incorporate Math into Your Everyday Life
Ironically, I work for a company that sells a homeschool math curriculum and some of my kids love math, while others will do whatever they can to avoid anything that looks like math!
Getting my kids excited about logic and puzzles (which is really what math is) and convincing them that they can’t avoid it, and that it is all around us and can be fun, is a mission that I am happy to undertake.
1) Spot the Math
A fun way to do this is play “spot the math” for a week and see who notices the most examples! You might be really surprised with the results.
At any age you can begin to explore all the ways math impacts us daily.
While we would all love to eat whatever we want, most of us have to live within a grocery budget, keeping cost in mind as we meal plan. Meals, snacks, celebrations, holidays these can all impact the monthly grocery budget.
Have your kids help plan the meals, find out what the meals cost per person, and price compare ingredients to get the best deals. You can take it further with online shopping. Is it more cost effective to order it online and have it delivered, or drive to a retail store to buy it in person? What are the pros and cons? Time is money!
3) DIY Projects
Does it make more sense to buy something or make it yourself?
Have your kids choose a project, like a bookshelf. Is it better to buy one prebuild, an assembly kit, or buy the raw materials and build it yourself? These are all questions we can answer with math and equations!
4) Exchange Rates
The world economy is shrinking, and purchasing goods from around the world is getting easier. Do some cost comparisons; is there a price difference between purchasing a schoolbook or a game console in the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom?
Take the exchange rate into consideration, eBay is a great way to do this as many other countries sell items there. Where can you get the best deal? Don’t forget about any taxes, and or duty you may be charged when it arrives. Track the exchange rate for a few days or a month, and see what a difference it makes to the final price.
Again, we are a large family, and my kids have learned the value of second-hand. A fun challenge is to give each person a set dollar amount ($10-$20) and see who can put together the most complete outfit with their budget.
Having your children understand the mark up, and the difference between retail and the used market, and how much farther their money can go letting someone else eat the original retail expense is another practical way to encourage wise use of money and using our math by figuring out the percentage they have saved off retail! This can apply to clothing, books, toys, sporting goods, cars, tools, and many other items that are useful to a family.
Tracking your utility costs, how much does it cost to wash a load of laundry? Boil a pot of water? How much will that use multiply up to over a week, month, or year? Bring in other household appliances as well and learn which are using the most power and cost the most to run. Can anything be done to lower costs, are we staying on budget for the month’s usage?
Let you kids help with the monthly budget. If you don’t want to involve them in the whole process, then stick with just one area, like groceries or costing out supplies for a project the family wants done. The ideas and options here are endless; you can teach valuable life lessons and get your kids out of thinking math can only happen in a workbook.
BONUS: Using Algebra
In the upper math levels you can be talking about algebra without ever mentioning math.
Algebra is simply overlaying sets of equations onto the world around us. We can talk about when it makes sense to invest in a new appliance and how cost–per-use works out to make it more effective to spend more money up front or to spend less over time in some situations.
Comparing gas mileage between two cars we have a 2008 suburban with 200,000 miles and a newer 2016 Nissan NV3500 12 passenger van. The suburban is paid for but often needs to be repaired, but we pay a payment on the Nissan.
Geometry and it’s science counterpart, physics, are even more natural. Have you packed a car full of camping equipment, a a cooler full of food, or added on to your house? Then you are using geometry!
As you can see, it isn’t hard to take math off the page and encounter it in real and meaningful ways every day! I hope this gives you some great ideas and fun ways to SEE math all around you.
Remember that experiencing math in real ways can take the stress out of math, and put a fun spin on a subject that while it isn’t everyone’s favorite we all have to use anyway!
What is Lifelong Learning?
Before delving into ways to practice lifelong learning, we must first define what it is.
The Department of Education and Science (Ireland) defines lifelong learning as an “ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated” pursuit of knowledge.
According to Skills You Need:
Lifelong learning is about creating and maintaining a positive attitude to learning both for personal and professional development. Lifelong learners are motivated to learn and develop because they want to: it is a deliberate and voluntary act. Lifelong learning can enhance our understanding of the world around us, provide us with more and better opportunities and improve our quality of life.
How can we be lifelong learners in our day-to-day lives with our children? Here are some tips for you.
How to Practice Lifelong Learning
1. Order books on topics you are interested in and make time to read.
2. Plan day trips and take tours.
3. Visit a local museum.
4. Take a nature hike.
5. Allow spontaneity.
6. Budget for education and hobbies.
7. Surround yourself with other lifelong learners.
8. Listen to music from a variety of genres.
9. Read all kinds of poetry.
10. Try new foods.
11. Visit an art gallery.
12. Take music lessons.
13. Host a foreign exchange student.
14. Learn a foreign language.
15. Get a dictionary and take the time to look up words anytime you come across ones you don’t know.
16. Learn from different mediums.
17. Attend seminars on topics that interest you.
18. Watch TV, movie and web documentaries on topic of interest.
19. Buy used college text books on topics that interest you.
20. Follow up on the references in the books you read.
21. Talk to, listen to, and read experts in the field you’re interested in.
22. Don’t assume everything you read is true!
23. Highlight words, phrases or quotes that inspire or intrigue you.
24. Join online communities and groups of learners.
25. Make learning your lifestyle.
26. Take online courses.
27. Don’t just read; review and talk about what you read and the ideas it spawned.
28. Write summaries putting what you’ve learned into your own words.
29. Set learning goals.
30. Write essays and research papers on topics you’re learning about.
31. Teach! A great way to learn is to teach.
32. Take notes.
33. Have a schedule.
34. Join a book club.
35. Encourage learning ownership.
36. Turn mistakes into opportunities.
37. Find time to play.
38. Use technology to your advantage.
39. Mentor others.
40. Determine your learning strengths.
41. Develop a growth mindset.
42. Talk about what you’ve learned.
43. Keep a “to learn” list.
44. Ask questions when you are confused or don’t understand something.
45. Practice thinking for yourself.
46. Keep a journal.
48. Put what you learn into practice.
49. Choose a career that encourages learning.
50. Improve your memory.
Benefits of Lifelong Learning
The benefits of lifelong learning, also known as self-guided education, are many. Here are a few:
• You improve your self-confidence.
• You trust yourself and your level of competence.
• You are never bored; staying challenged keeps you focused and learning.
• It keeps your brain healthy and your mind sharp.
• Your brain will continue to grow and develop more neural pathways.
• You protect your brain with continual use from diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.
• You will sleep better! When you exercise your body, it gets tired; the same thing happens to your mind.
• It makes you more valuable as an employee.
• Lifelong learning fuels creativity and innovation.
• It gives excellent problem-solving skills.
Lifelong Learning Quotes
“The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see.” – Alexandra K. Trenfor
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” – Henry Ford
“I am still learning.” – Michelangelo, age 87
“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” – John Dewey
“The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it from you.” – B.B. King
“All of life is constant education.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
“I am always doing what I cannot do yet. In order to learn how to do it.” – Vincent Van Goah
“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” – Albert Einstein
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin
“Commit yourself to lifelong learning. The most valuable asset you’ll ever have is your mind and what you put into it.” – Brian Tracy
“I don’t divide the world into the weak and the strong, or successes and the failures. I divide the world into learners and non-learners.” – Benjamin Barber
“The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches a lesson.” – Tom Bodett
“When you take the free will our of education that turns it into schooling.” – John Taylor Gatto
“It is not hard to learn more. What is hard is to unlearn when you discover yourself wrong.” – Martin H. Fischer
Homeschool burnout isn’t pretty, and no one is immune to it. Keep reading for some tried-and-true tips to help you beat homeschool burnout.
We have all been there at one time or another. The school year kicks off, and we hit the ground running.
We did our research and placed our curriculum orders; we crack open fresh books and are excited about what we are going to accomplish with our children’s education as we start another school year.
Sometimes, though, in the midst of the schooling groove, life happens:
• You get pregnant and can barely keep crackers down.
• Your toddler has a medical issue that throws the family for a loop.
• You have to move because your husband lost his job.
• Your student is diagnosed with dyslexia.
• You have an aging parent move in.
• Your child that you love more than life itself becomes a hormonal teen.
These are just a few examples of the many challenges that can surface during your homeschool journey.
Homeschool burnout can hit all of us at times and in certain seasons as we homeschool our children. Don’t panic; there’s good news! Homeschool burnout isn’t permanent and can actually cause you to reevaluate everything from your curriculum to your sanity. It is something that you and your students can overcome. I hope that the following tips are helpful.
7 Homeschool Burnout Tips
Our students can often pick up on our stress and frustration. Make sure you are taking time for you! Get up early and drink your coffee in the peace and quiet before the day begins. Make sure you eat breakfast; it is, after all, the most important meal of the day and helps you beat being “hangry” and that all-too-common brain fog.
Implement some simple organization to help you keep things on track. Assign each child a shelf or specific space for their books so that you aren’t spending precious time looking for missing workbooks or where a child left a DVD when you need to be doing school.
Create a simple meal plan for the week so that you don’t have to stress over meals. Let your children help you prepare and clean up after meals so that it is a team effort.
If you have younger children, babies, or toddlers, they can distract from older children being able to have your one-on-one attention. Make sure you are maximizing a nap time or quiet time for the littles so you can focus on what your older children need your help with (and if you can manage a nap for yourself, go for it!).
Plan a FUN Field Trip
Routine can get boring, and it is always a great idea to occasionally plan a fun field trip. It doesn’t have to be expensive or far away to bring a fun change to your usual routine.
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.
Stick to the Basics!
It is easy to get tempted by the plethora of curricula available, and a host of other activities (drama, music, sports, co-ops, etc.). Do what is important to you, but don’t get overwhelmed by a host of outside activities that can detract from the basics.
That’s the number of hours you receive each year when you make the choice to homeschool your child. You get to choose how those hours are spent by both you and your student. Talk about a major life impact. I can’t stress to you enough how worthy this calling is. So grab another cup of coffee to make it through the mid-afternoon slump and keep on making a difference!
What does this look like on a daily basis? How do we set our children up for success no matter the circumstances? By being present, being engaged – putting our phones and our duties aside and engaging in life with our kids.
As parents, we often feel the need to make sure we are covering all the bases with our children, from getting all the academics in, to rounding things out with extracurricular activities including, music, sports, dance, drama etc. – not to mention making sure they are decent human beings and contributing members of society. I would like to challenge you with the idea that, instead of classes and lists where we check off the accomplishments that we feel they should perform for the sake of a superior education, that our REAL calling as parents is to invest time and intention into our children by doing everything we can to set them up for success in life and relationships.
Did you ever picture being your child’s parent and being your child’s cheerleader as equally important? I have found this to be especially true with my children who have learning or character struggles, but it is true across the board. All children, all people, need someone to believe in them, mentor them and then tell them just how special they really are. This takes time and effort to observe your child and watch for those areas of strength and weakness so that you can encourage them through the challenges and praise them in their successes. Is this easy to do? No. Does it come naturally to all parents? No. Does it take time, intention, and effort on your part? Absolutely! Will it make a lasting impact on not only your children but your life as well? Yes, and in more ways than you can possibly imagine. It happens when we establish this pattern of building our children up and getting excited about each learning discovery and achievement, when we praise them in the times they exhibit character, and integrity while modeling what these look like in our own lives. It happens when we point out ways we see others modeling character or the consequences of poor choices. This will benefit you children in amazing ways. Studies prove growing up in a nurturing, encouraging, love of learning environment will impact your children and everyone they come into contact with! Talk about the best way to raise real world-changers!
But how do we do this on a daily basis? I remember a young mother sharing with me how her son would wake early (a lot earlier than she liked to be awake) and would bound into her room, smiling and excited about the day ahead. One such morning, instead of her usual grumping that he was up too early and to go back to bed, she met him with a smile and a hug. “I am so glad to see you,” she said, and she meant it. His surprised look at her new reaction was confirmation that this was the way she wanted to be, and for her son to see her every morning. Small changes like this can set the tone for your whole day. In these situations, it is often all about the perspective and attitude we choose to approach our children with that can make the biggest impact. Every moment and interaction we have a choice about our countenance and attitude. What are you modeling for your children, spouse and to those around you? Is it the message you want to send or does your message need some intentional work?
Let me encourage you that attention and diligence to this one area will not only profoundly impact your life and the lives of your children in powerful and positive ways, but it will also begin to impact the world. This is the ultimate area in which to educate yourself and your children. Lives full of meaningful relationship is what we were created for. It is how we connect and grow to be the best versions of ourselves. While new habits are hard to form and old habits die hard, I would encourage you to take away from this just how much taking this message to heart can mean for you and your children. So cheer loudly, moms and dads, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Be the parent that puts down their phone and engages in positive conversation. Ask questions and then find the answers together. Giving those that surround you positive tapes to play in their minds will empower them to succeed and to believe in themselves and others. I know you can do it, and I believe in YOU!
Related Blog Post:
Parents: You Are Exactly What Your Child Needs
Let me set the scene: You wake up, and the sun is shining brightly. Your children greet you with smiling, cheerful faces. You sit down and eat breakfast together, and then it’s time to begin educating their bright, inquisitive minds. You steadily work through the subjects with them: math, reading, writing, spelling…you are on a roll! You feel proud and accomplished as they share all they learned around the dinner table, where you have placed culinary delights from the country you studied today in geography! The house is spotless, and the laundry and dishes are done. You have showered, fixed your hair, and put on makeup. Pat yourself on the back; Supermom has done it again! While these situations are often what we aspire to as a homeschooling parents, or how our friends think homeschooling goes, sometimes the reality is a stark contrast. We occasionally have those days where we feel like we have made the best decision to tackle our children’s education with confidence.
What about the days when everything seems to get in the way? The day gets off to a late start because the baby had a blowout and everyone woke up on the wrong side of the bed, including you. The house looks like a hurricane went through it, and two of your children have lost their workbooks. You haven’t showered in three days and have consumed four cups of coffee at 3:00 p.m. just to make it through the afternoon. You order takeout for dinner and are living for bedtime. You feel more like a referee than a parent or educator. What about finding out your child has dyslexia, ADD, dysgraphia, Asperger’s, or autism, just to name a few of the challenges we can face with our children that can directly impact teaching and learning? These are the days you question your sanity, and feel like you’re losing more ground than you have gained. You fantasize about eight hours of a day to yourself, or better yet, sending the kids off to boarding school and leaving the refereeing to anyone other than you.
Let me stop right here and just say that, for most of us, our time as a homeschooling parent falls somewhere in between these two scenarios. Maybe you can’t identify with either of these examples, but you may feel isolated and stuck in a rut. I know from my own homeschooling journey that you can experience one or the other and everywhere in between. We all have our highs and lows, our good days and bad days. So what keeps us going on those tough moments, hours, days, months, and years? What do I want you to take away from this?
You are enough! YOU are exactly what your child needs.
The time and sacrifices are worth it! How do I know this? I was one of those kids. I have lived through many of those scenarios that I hope made you smile and relate. I know because I watched my own mother love, struggle, and pour herself into us day after day, year after year! I adore her for it and sometimes thank her and apologize because I am now living this adventure of homeschooling with my own family. I know from experience it’s not the curriculum; it’s not the money spent or the extracurricular activities. It’s you being engaged, taking the time to invest into your children, teaching them to be kind, compassionate, inquisitive lifelong learners. If you are the example of the love of learning for your children, then you have accomplished it all. They will take that love and carry it with them and spread it throughout the world.
Leave the laundry for tomorrow and go catch butterflies. Learn what caterpillars look like and what they like to eat. Impart to your children the wonder that is right outside your door. You are the unsung hero, but you are just that: a hero. You are making more of a difference than you may ever know. To quote Robert Frost, one of my favorite poets:
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”