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Author Archives: Lisa Shumate

About Lisa Shumate

Lisa serves as a Learning and Development Specialist with Demme Learning. While she holds a B.A. in Legal Studies from the University of Central Florida, she seems to find herself consistently pulled towards education in some capacity. Lisa and her husband Chris have been married for 30+ years and are the parents of three homeschool graduates.

3 Ways to Encourage a Growth Mindset in Our Kids

The words we speak into our children’s hearts and mind are powerful in forming a growth mindset.

Five years ago I had the privilege of participating in a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) through Stanford University Online on teaching and learning math. My time as my children’s primary teacher had passed. Even though it was a completely new concept to me, I vividly remember crying as I watched some of the video segments on mindsets. These videos made me realize I had promoted a fixed mindset rather than a growth mindset in my children.

3 Ways to Encourage a Growth Mindset in Our Kids

1) Identifying Your Mindset

As mentioned in the previous blog on mindsets, before you can become intentional about encouraging a growth mindset in your own children, you first need to identify your own mindset. Think about your answers to the following questions:

What happens when you are facing something challenging?
What happens when you experience criticism?
What happens when you witness success in others?

Do you recognize a pattern of either negative (fixed mindset) or positive (growth mindset) reactions to these situations? Did your answers vary? Perhaps you tend to have growth mindset in some areas but a fixed mindset in others. If you have discovered that you have a fixed mindset, there are still ways to change it.

2) Mindset Messages

Once you have identified your general mindset tendencies, you can begin to focus on specifics. The words we speak into our children’s hearts and mind are powerful in forming their mindset. As my children were growing up, I thought I was contributing to their self-confidence by telling them how smart they were or praising them for finishing their schoolwork so quickly. Try to avoid fixed mindset trigger words like “smart,” “quickly,” or “easy.”

Fixed mindset vocabulary often shows up when praise is focused mainly on results. Focusing on the effort instead will begin planting the seeds for a growth mindset. For example, you might tell your student, “I really liked the way you didn’t give up on that math problem you were struggling with and tried different approaches to figure it out.” Now I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to get a participation certificate for just showing up. Empty praise can potentially detract from a growth mindset by discouraging hard work and perseverance. The goal is to encourage effort and tenacity rather than just going through the motions.

In addition to providing growth mindset feedback to your children in your verbal communication with them, it is important to help them develop growth mindset vocabulary in their own self-talk. If you hear them say something like, “I’m so stupid!” after a mistake, help them take a step back, evaluate what went wrong, and formulate a plan to lessen the likelihood of it happening again. Then highlight the opportunity the mistake provided for learning. Keep in mind that you are also modeling mindset language for them constantly in your own self-talk.

Teach your child the power of “yet.” Consider the subtle but powerful difference between the following:

Can you play Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata on the piano? “No.”
Can you play Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata on the piano? “Not yet.”

While “no” suggests the inability of the respondent, “not yet” conveys the expectation of the potential. I may not be able to do it right now, but I will some day! The power of “not yet” is a concept that Demme Learning has incorporated into the placement process for the Math-U-See program and into our employee training as well.

Mindset messages are not limited to verbal communication. It has been said that it takes ten positive messages to offset just one negative. Since society tends to hammer us with fixed mindset messages, we need to use every opportunity to provide growth mindset messages to counter this. Place sticky-notes with growth mindset messages inside the cover of a book your child is reading. Put notes on a memo board or the front of the refrigerator. Write them on the bathroom mirror with a dry-erase marker. If you have trouble coming up with messages of your own, get inspired by our list of growth mindset quotes.

Teach kids to love learning! Help them to value learning for learning’s sake alone and not for the grade on the assignment or passing a test. Fostering this love of learning will not only help develop your child’s growth mindset, it will be your helping hand as a parent educator. A child who is passionate about learning needs little motivation to do so!
Challenge your children. Once they’ve completed a math problem, encourage them to see if they can find a different way to solve it. Provide challenging puzzles to complete. Ask them open-ended questions that require them to dig deeper into their thinking.

3) Beyond Your Home

While your role in fostering a growth mindset in your children may begin at home, it certainly doesn’t end there. As mentioned previously, fixed mindset messages occur throughout society. Actively work for change in the programs and extracurricular activities involving your children. Educate coaches, teachers, and family members about the impact of fixed mindset messages and ways to encourage a growth mindset.

What growth mindset inspired next step will you commit to today? Let us know in the comments.

BONUS: 10 Growth Mindset Quotes

“So many times people end up fixated on doing things right that they end up doing nothing at all.” – The Wright Brothers

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” – Elbert Hubbard

“An obstacle is often a stepping stone.” – William Prescott

“Nothing is impossible. The word itself says ‘I’m possible!’ – Audrey Hepburn

“It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.” – Confucius

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer. ” – Albert Einstein

“It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.” – Theodore Roosevelt

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” – George Bernard Shaw

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” – Henry Ford

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset

Carol Dweck coined the term mindset to reflect how we tend to think about ability. Simply stated, it is how we view potential in others and ourselves.

“Hurray! You made an A on your test! You’re so smart!”
“It’s a good thing you like to write because it’s obvious there is no math gene in this family!”
“She is such a gifted singer, but her whole family is musical, so it just comes naturally.”
“Great! Derek pitched a perfect game! Now I’ll never get a chance to be starting pitcher again.”

What do all these quotes have in common? They all represent a fixed mindset.

Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset

Stanford University professor and researcher Carol Dweck coined the term mindset to reflect how we tend to think about ability. Simply stated, it is how we view potential in others and ourselves.

Those with a fixed mindset believe that talent, intelligence, and ability are set and unchangeable—genetically determined or a gift that you either have or you don’t. This was definitely the prevailing thinking of the previous generation! However, research in the field of neuroplasticity has demonstrated that the brain has the ability to strengthen synapses and change over time.

Building on the concept of neuroplasticity, those with a growth mindset believe that through effort and perseverance we have the ability to improve and grow in any area to which we set our minds. Growth does not discount the existence of innate talent. Instead, it recognizes that natural talent undeveloped due to lack of effort will never reach its full potential. In general, those with less “natural ability” that work diligently will ultimately achieve more than those “gifted” who do not cultivate their skills.

A dichotomy does not exist between those that are completely fixed and completely growth-oriented. The reality is that we are all on a continuum and are some combination of the two.

Why Growth Mindset Is Important

It has a significant impact on how we view and react to a variety of situations throughout our lives. Those with a fixed view tend to avoid challenges while those with a growth view tend to embrace them. People with a fixed mindset view mistakes as failures while those with a growth mindset view them as opportunities to learn. A fixed view causes us to become defensive when receiving criticism, but a growth view helps us learn from the feedback of others. Those with a fixed mindset feel threatened by the accomplishments of others while those with a growth mindset find the triumphs of others inspirational.

The research on the impact is encouraging to say the least! Academically, those with a growth mindset perform substantially higher, showing greater success in both math and science (Source). In the workplace, employees in growth mindset organizations feel more empowered, tending to be more innovative and collaborative (Source).

So, what is your mindset? Are you mainly focused on looking smart and talented, or are you more focused on a desire to learn? Do you praise the result of your child’s work (the grade or the medal) or the effort? As you encounter situations involving ability, try to pause and reflect on your reaction. Identifying your own is the first step toward encouraging growth in yourself and your children.

Do I Really Have Everything I Need for Upper Level Math-U-See?

How is a homeschooling parent to know what additional materials might be needed with the upper levels of Math-U-See?

It’s week three of a new school year. You purchased your Math-U-See Geometry curriculum months ago at your area convention, and you’re sure you have everything you need.

You begin reading the Lesson 3 information on angles, and you’re suddenly seized with panic as the bolded words rulers and protractors leap at you from the page! While you’re sure you can find a ruler somewhere, a protractor just isn’t something you have tucked away in the arts and crafts cabinet.

So how is a homeschooling parent to know what additional materials might be needed with the upper levels of Math-U-See?

Generally, information regarding additional materials is located in the front matter of the Instruction Manual. In the case of Geometry, under Step 1 of “The Suggested 4-Step Math-U-See Approach” it states:

For this book, you will need a straightedge or ruler, a protractor, and a compass for measuring angles. I do not encourage calculators for most work at this level. However, they may be useful for a few concepts. These are noted in the lessons.

In case you prefer a broader view of what additional supplies might be needed across multiple levels, they are:

Calculator Scientific Calculator‡ Ruler Protractor Compass USA Map World Map†
Pre-Algebra X
Algebra 1 X X
Geometry X X* X X X X*
Algebra 2 X X* X*
PreCalculus X X X*
Calculus X

*These items are optional.

†World map should show longitude and latitude.

‡Scientific calculator should contain trigonometric functions, inverse trigonometric functions, logarithmic functions, and be able to convert between degrees and radians.

Online Calculation Tools

You may be able to find websites or apps that will be an acceptable (or even superior) substitute for some of the items listed. These resources have excellent calculator options, as well as other valuable resources:


These resources can serve as useful references for some word problems:

World Atlas
Google Earth

Here are some additional resources you may find helpful across multiple levels:

1. The Resources by Level page on the Math-U-See website contains record-keeping forms, various graph paper, and additional problems for some levels. The Math-U-See Worksheet Generator also provides options for creating additional Pre-Algebra worksheets.

2. A flashcard/quiz application allows students to review important terms and definitions while taking a break from the physical books. Plus, inputting the information into the app alone may help with learning! A couple of resources you may find useful are Quizlet and StudyBlue.

3. While never required, a graphing calculator can be a useful supplement to any of the courses Algebra 1 and above. While it should never be a substitute for manual graphing and required calculations, it can be a useful check of completed work. The practice will help the student gain familiarity prior to college entrance exams or future courses requiring its use.

For now, close up the books and break the day up with a little unplanned field trip to the store for that protractor. Oh, and while you’re there, you might want to grab a compass, and not the directional kind. You’re going to need it very soon!

Learning to Adapt with Personalized Homeschooling

An individualized education is one of the numerous benefits of home education. But sometimes we have learn to adapt from child to child.

A personalized education is one of the numerous benefits of home education. But sometimes we have learn to adapt from child to child.

“My Johnny was a national spelling bee finalist using this spelling curriculum, but now my Jack can barely spell three-letter words using it. I just don’t understand!” As educators we need to remember that square pegs don’t fit in round holes very well, whether the pegboard has thirty holes or three. There are a variety of ways in which we can personalize our homeschooling to meet the needs of our unique learners: using the same curriculum for all, adapting our chosen curriculum, or using different materials for each child.

There are times when we may be able to use the same curriculum and approach for all our children and just allow their natural talents and preferences to provide the personalization. This probably works best with a multi-level, unit study program. Throughout my kids’ elementary years (and into middle school for the eldest), we used a multi-level unit study that covered several core subjects. I would start out having everyone complete lower-level objectives and move toward the more advanced. Although the lower-level objectives might have been rather basic for some, they provided an excellent introduction to the subject matter. The higher-level objectives might have been over the head of some, but I knew they would grasp and retain what they were capable of understanding. I would also choose objectives that incorporated a variety of learning activities, knowing that all three would experience better retention from employing multiple modalities.

In other circumstances, we may need to adapt our chosen approach to best meet the needs of each child. For example, when working on mastery of basic math facts, my eldest required a variety of practice involving a combination of approaches. We used sandpaper numbers, games, hopscotch, and computer-based games/drills. Flashcards and written drills didn’t seem to help. My second one learned best by listening to a CD with the facts set to music. After that, we would add in some other practice to improve her speed. For my youngest, building each fact with manipulatives and writing out the equation was how she committed them to memory. A little bit of computer-based and written drill was added when needed to increase fluency. When learning a new math concept, my eldest needed first to sit and watch me complete problems without any participation. I would verbalize my thinking process throughout – building, writing, and saying as I went. After internalizing the concept that way, he would begin gradually taking on more and more of the process. The second one would interact with me in exploring the concept from the start until she could demonstrate mastery but then would want me present while completing her work just to touch base and confirm she was doing everything correctly. The youngest preferred to go over the new concept and then head off to work independently. Although I used Math-U-See with all three, it was applied slightly differently. Maybe your chosen history program requires a written report, which was fine when your firstborn used it, but isn’t working so well for your struggling writer. Would a PowerPoint presentation, drawing or painting a picture, or acting out a scene demonstrate mastery of the material while better allowing her to enjoy the process? We must also consider differences in development in our children in relation to our curriculum choices. It could be the reading program that worked great for Mary at age six isn’t working for Ben at the same age but will be perfect for him when he’s eight or nine.

However, there are times when we must simply accept the fact that, even with modification, our preferred approach may not work for a certain child and we need to move on to something new. While doing so may result in additional cost and preparation time, it can also have many advantages. If two siblings are close in age but at very different levels in a subject (or different ages and the same level), there can be an unhealthy sense of comparison that can be hard on the one child’s self-esteem. Moving to a different curriculum or approach for one may help to reduce this type of competition. Changing your curriculum can also result in a renewed sense of enthusiasm for both student and teacher. Breaking away from the familiar can allow us to look at a subject with a fresh perspective. My youngest had always disliked history, despite exposure to several different curricula. In the eighth grade she so enjoyed the writing style of the author of our choice for history that year that she fell in love with the subject. She will soon graduate with her bachelor’s degree, double majoring in English literature and history. This interest would have gone undiscovered had it not been for a change in curriculum!

Whether it involves shaking things up a bit with what we are using or throwing everything out and starting fresh, it’s imperative as parent educators that we are sensitive to the individual needs of each of our children. Even when everything seems to be working great, it’s worthwhile to keep up to date on other approaches. Who knows? You might discover something that works better for you as the teacher. Remember, you are an individual, too!

What is the Order of Operations?

The order of operations is a convention that really began to take shape during the sixteenth century as algebraic notation developed.

My very educated mother just served us nachos.

Every good boy deserves fudge.

Roy G. Biv

Mnemonics. Be it the planets in our solar system, the lines of the treble clef, or the order of the colors in a rainbow, most of us have relied on mnemonics to remember information at some point. We use them because they are so effective. A mnemonic device used in Math-U-See is “Parachute expert, my dear Aunt Sally” (or “Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally,” as it often appears in other curricula). This is often referred to by the acronym PEMDAS. What does PEMDAS mean, and what does Aunt Sally have to do with math?

The acronym PEMDAS is often used to remember the order of operations in mathematics. The order of operations is a convention that really began to take shape during the sixteenth century as algebraic notation developed and has continued to evolve ever since. It provides a uniform method of evaluating mathematical expressions without the overuse of parentheses (or brackets). The use of the acronym PEMDAS is a more recent development. Each letter of the acronym represents an operation:

P – parentheses
E – exponents
M – multiplication
D – division
A – addition
S – subtraction

Regardless of how many values you start with in an expression, you can only work with two at a time. Without applying the order of operations, one person might work an expression from left to right, and another might work random groupings that he creates. This would result in different answers. Consider this example:

42 + 3 X 5 =

Working this expression left to right, I would get 42 + 3 = 45, and then multiplying 45 X 5 would result in 225.

42 + 3 X 5 =

Applying the order of operations (PEMDAS), I would complete the multiplication of 3 X 5 = 15. Adding the 15 to 42 would result in 57.

If we were having a conversation regarding these numbers, the intent would be clear. It is dealing with mathematical ideas in written notation that makes the order of operations so valuable. Therefore, having a clear understanding of this concept is vital.

However, is remembering PEMDAS enough? Unfortunately, no. Many a student has dutifully worked through an expression, applying each operation in the order set forth by PEMDAS, only to find their answer incorrect. The Math-U-See program clearly teaches the student that multiplication and division are completed simultaneously, left to right, as these are related operations. The same is true for addition and subtraction. To expand on the previous example:

42 + 3 X 5 – 20 ÷ 10 X 2 + 3 =

Working this example in the order of each letter of PEMDAS, would yield the following:

42 + 15 – 20 ÷ 20 + 3 = Completing the multiplication first as there are no parentheses or exponents
42 + 15 – 1 + 3 = Completing the division
57 – 4 = Completing the addition
53 Completing the subtraction

This time, applying the understanding that multiplication and division are completed simultaneously, as are addition and subtraction, I would get the following:

42 + 3 X 5 – 20 ÷ 10 X 2 + 3 =
42 + 15 – 20 ÷ 10 X 2 + 3 = Completing first multiplication
42 + 15 – 2 X 2 + 3 = Continuing to the right to division
42 + 15 – 4 + 3 = Continuing right to the last multiplication
57 – 4 + 3 = Completing first addition
53 + 3 = Continuing right to subtraction
56 Continuing right to the last addition

(Note: Steps can be combined in practice. They are broken down here for clarity.)

Although this important concept of order of operations seems simple, it can actually be quite challenging to apply. A fun activity to practice the order of operations is Four 4’s. To play, use exactly four 4’s to make every integer from 0-10 using any mathematical operation, decimal points, and parentheses. You must use all four 4’s each time and cannot use any other numbers.

Have fun exploring the order of operations, and say “hi” to Aunt Sally while you do!

Do Spelling You See and Math-U-See Share the Same DNA?

Can a user of Math-U-See expect a similar experience with Spelling You See? Read on to find out.

Can a user of Math-U-See expect a similar experience with Spelling You See? Read on to find out.

“Oh, my! You look just like your mother!” Inevitably, that is the response my youngest daughter receives anytime someone encounters the two of us together for the first time. Not only do we carry many of the same facial features, but there are some similarities in our personalities as well. Since we are part of the same family and she carries some of my DNA, it makes sense that people would see the resemblance.

Does the same hold true for curricula? Math-U-See and Spelling You See are both part of the Demme Learning product family.

Similarities Between Math-U-See and Spelling You See

1) Placement by Readiness

Both programs place students according to their readiness rather than grade level. The completion of each lesson varies upon the skill of the student. Placing students according to readiness level helps ensure that the student has the foundation necessary to experience success. This results in decreased frustration and increased confidence.

2) Based on Successful Teaching Practices

While Math-U-See and Spelling You See were developed by different people (Steve Demme and Dr. Karen Holinga, respectively), both were designed based on their experiences with real students as to what is effective, and both programs are supported by research.

3) Grade Levels are Not Emphasized

Both Math-U-See and Spelling You See meet your child right where he is at, developmentally and academically, regardless of age or grade level.

4) Short Lessons

Experts indicate that our brains will typically remain engaged in an activity for a maximum of 10 minutes at a time. (This can be influenced by factors such as age, hunger, tiredness, and stress.) Brief activities within each lesson help maintain focus and don’t add frustrations for the student.

5) Reinforces Learning with Different Senses

Both programs contain print, auditory, and hands-on components. Research shows that multisensory learning serves to strengthen the learning experience and makes it more likely that the student will actually retain what is being learned over time.

6) Parental Engagement is Critical

Whether it is having your student teach back a math concept or providing encouragement while completing a passage diction with her, parental engagement is an integral part of both the Math-U-See and Spelling You See programs.

7) Video Instruction

Math-U-See’s lesson-by-lesson videos enable parents to see the teaching of the concepts in action. Videos provided as part of the online access for Spelling You See provide an overview for the level, demonstrations of core activities, and additional helpful videos.

8) Presentation of the Material

The material is presented in a way that engages, encourages, and motivates the student, giving him increased confidence as his skill grows. Colorful and fun manipulatives, high-interest passages, positive presentations – these elements and more allow students to explore learning in a non-threatening, low-stress manner.

Teaching Place Value is Important

Place value allows your 12-year-old son to understand the difference between the $50 he received for his birthday and the $500 price tag on a tablet.

The little girl sits puzzling over the problem on the page. She’s only in second grade, but the stress of high performance expectations is already in place. Here’s the problem she needs to solve:

500 – 78

The little girl remembers that she needs to cross out the five and make it a four. She also knows that one of the zeros becomes a nine and the other one becomes a ten, but she just can’t remember which is which, and it’s so frustrating! Finally, she has an idea. She tries different values and adds 78 to each of them until she comes up with:

422 + 78 = 500

She writes 422 as the answer and receives that coveted gold star on her paper. No one knows that she doesn’t understand how to complete this type of subtraction with regrouping (or “borrowing,” as it was called in her day).

I can completely relate to this child’s frustration because that little girl was me. What was the issue? Hint: It wasn’t my faulty memory. It was that I had been taught only an algorithm and had not been provided any conceptual understanding of the role of place value.

What is Place Value?

The definition of place value is rather simple.

Place value is the position of a number that tells what value it is assigned. Here at Demme Learning, we often say place value tells “what kind” or “what value.” This is in contrast to the digits 0-9, which indicate “how many.” For example, in the number 246, the digit 4 indicates there are four (how many) tens (what kind/place value).

Despite its simple definition, place value can be a challenging concept for a young child to grasp. Regardless of whether dad is in the kitchen, the living room, or the garage, he is still dad, but if the digit 3 is in different locations (tens or hundreds place, for example), it means something different. In the Math-U-See curriculum, place value is first introduced in the Primer level with the fun and relatable illustration of Decimal Street®. Each of the houses on Decimal Street represents a separate place value. This is reiterated in the Alpha level and again in Beta.

Why is Place Value Important?

From the opening story, you saw that place value has some impact on mathematical understanding, but how important is it?

According to Sherman, Richardson, and Yard, “Place value is perhaps the most fundamental concept embedded in the elementary and middle school mathematics curriculum.”4 Place value provides the foundation for regrouping, multiple-digit multiplication, and more in the base-ten (decimal) system, as well as a starting point for the understanding of other base systems.

Place value allows your 12-year-old son to understand the difference between the $50 he received for his birthday and the $500 price tag on the tablet he’s saving for.

Place value allows the student learning scientific notation to understand why 54,800,000 can be represented as 5.48 X 107.

Studies have shown that place value understanding has a positive correlation with overall mathematics achievement.2 As a second-grade student, place value would have helped me understand that when I crossed out the 5 in 500, I was really decomposing 1 hundred into 10 tens, of which 1 needed to go to the ones or units place to allow me to subtract, leaving 9 to go to the tens place. There would have been no need to memorize (and forget) an algorithm!

Hopefully you are convinced that place value is important, but does it really matter how it is taught?

Research has shown a correlation between using base-ten manipulative representations of numbers (as opposed to one-to-one representations) and understanding of place value.2 In other words, representing the number 24 with two 10 blocks and four units rather than 24 units correlates with a better understanding of place value.

The Math-U-See presentation of place value using Decimal Street and our color-coded pieces for units, tens, and hundreds supports this desired base-ten representation. Additionally, studies have shown that the way numbers are verbalized by English-language speakers may negatively influence the way students think about and represent numbers in comparison to Asian-language speakers.3 Unlike their English counterparts, Asian-language number names correspond directly with the base-ten system. Math-U-See provides some alternate number naming strategies to help bridge this gap and promote better understanding of base ten.

We invite you to watch the video presentation on place value and see how Math-U-See can help your student gain a better understanding of this foundational concept.

1Kouba, V. L., Brown, C. A., Carpenter, T. P., Lindquist, M. M., Silver, E. A., & Swafford, J. O. (1988). Results of the fourth NAEP assessment of mathematics: Number, operations, and word problems. Arithmetic Teacher, 35(8), 14-19.
2Miura, I. T., & Okamoto, Y. (1989). Comparisons of U.S. and Japanese first graders’ cognitive representation of number and understanding of place value. Journal of Educational Psychology,81(1), 109-114.
3Miura, I. T., Okamoto, Y., Kim, C. C., Steere, M., & Fayol, M. (1993). Cross-national comparisons: France, Japan, Korea, Sweden, and the United States. Journal of Educational Psychology,85(1), 24-30.
4Sherman, H. J., Richardson, L. I., & Yard, G. J. (2014). The impact of place value on mathematics. Retrieved January 13, 2017, from http://www.education.com/reference/article/impact-place-value-mathematics/.

Long-Term Visual Memory and Its Impact on Spelling

While there are many different types of memory, visual memory is of particular importance.

Not long after taking the family to see the movie, Finding Nemo, my husband thought I had forgotten something. My snappy reply of, “Who do you think I am, Darla?” was met with uproarious laughter by my spouse and children alike. In an ironic twist, I had managed to forget the name of the lovable fish with short-term memory loss.

We all rely on memory daily, and, unfortunately, it fails us all from time to time. While there are many different types of memory, visual memory is of particular importance.

Various researchers have stated that as much as eighty percent of all learning takes place through the eye with visual memory existing as a crucial aspect of learning. (Source)

Accessing this visual recall is essential for successful spelling.

Good spellers typically visualize words when they spell, and the ability to spell irregular non-phonetic sight words involves the use of visual sequential memory. (Source)

That makes sense when you think about it. When uncertain of the correct spelling, most adults will try writing it different ways and determine which spelling looks correct.

We tend to rely on our visual memory as an “autocorrect” feature for spelling. Many spelling programs attempt to use visual memory by having students write words from a spelling list repeatedly throughout the week. Repetition definitely has its place in language learning; however, experience shows us that relying solely on rote memorization often fails to get the information into long-term memory in an easily retrievable manner.

Short-term memories can become long-term memory through . . . rehearsal and meaningful association.” (Source)

Rote memorization of spelling words supplies the “rehearsal” part of the equation but lacks the element of “meaningful association.”

Why is meaning so important in this process? Have you ever smelled something cooking and were immediately transported back in time to the kitchen of your childhood? You can recall the faces, the décor, and everything else with vivid detail. That smell served as an index entry to all the other elements. Over time, recalling these memories repeatedly has caused them to become permanently associated with each other. (Source) As Stephen Tobolowsky once said, “Memory works according to meaning, and when something is important to you, the Google in your brain brings it forward all of a sudden.”

Another element of long-term memory is procedural memory. This is the ability to do things unconsciously, like riding a bike, for example. This comes through repetition and practice. (Source) We often refer to this as kinesthetic or muscle memory. The role of kinesthetic memory in spelling was discussed in Are Spelling and Reading Manipulatives Effective? Writing by hand involves multiple areas of the brain, as the student must think about the sound being made, decide which letter needs to be written, think about how the letter is formed, and finally engage the proper hand motions.

Spelling You See incorporates all of these important aspects of memory in the program. Completing core activities using the same passage throughout the week supplies the repetition necessary to transfer information from short-term to long-term visual memory and develop the necessary muscle memory for correct spelling. High-interest passages and accompanying illustrations provide the meaning to help with both transfer to long-term memory and the subsequent retrieval of correct spelling through association.

We invite you to explore the Spelling You See program to see how it can contribute to your child’s success.

The Benefits of Homeschooling: Reflections from a Parent

There’s no doubt about it; home education is a major endeavor that is not for the faint of heart! I remember the first time homeschooling was recommended to me due to my then-toddler’s severe allergies. I literally laughed at the thought of it! Why would anyone want to undertake something so difficult? Maybe it’s because of the numerous benefits homeschooling provides the student, the family, and society.

Homeschooling encourages individualization, flexibility, and personal ownership in education.

Benefits to Student

Homeschooling is generally more time-efficient than other educational options. Learning can be accomplished in less time in a one-on-one environment than in a traditional classroom and homework situation. Plus, the homeschooling commute is much shorter!

Homeschooling allows your student’s education to be adapted to meet her unique, individualized needs. You are able to follow your personal educational philosophy and choose the best resources for your child. Does your son love anything with wheels? Great! You can focus your history studies around transportation from different time periods. If you have a child that needs to move more slowly to master concepts, you have the flexibility to do that.

Because of the ability to individualize, homeschooled students are often afforded more voice in their education. This can result in better engagement and ownership of their learning, a benefit that often extends into adulthood. My daughter recently commented on how she feels she is better able to think and learn for herself as compared to many of her traditionally educated coworkers.

Home education frequently results in improved academic performance. Research indicates that home-educated students commonly score significantly higher than those from public schools on standardized achievement tests. (Source) This improved performance can provide increased opportunities for higher education and career.

A long-term benefit is that adults who were educated at home tend to be more content with life. Levels of happiness, excitement with life, job satisfaction, and satisfaction with financial situation are all higher for homeschool graduates than the general U.S. population. (Source)

Benefits to Family

It takes time to build any relationship, and homeschooling provides many more opportunities to spend time together. Not only does this help strengthen the family unit, but it also helps build individual relationships between a child and his parents, siblings, and possibly other family members.

Homeschooling provides a tremendous amount of flexibility. Homeschooling allowed our family of night owls to start our day later, and it allowed us to travel all over the Southeast with my daughter for softball. We were able to work on lessons in the middle of the day, waiting in a doctor’s office with an ailing grandparent. These things would have been difficult or impossible within the constraints of traditional brick-and-mortar schooling.

Not only does homeschooling afford parents a significant amount of ownership and control over their student’s education, but it also enables parents to influence their children in other important ways. Being with an adult, both in the home and as part of daily activities, increases a child’s exposure to appropriate adult behavior, as opposed to that of school-based peers. It allows the parent to model traits such as being patient, kind, and respectful and makes it more likely that these traits will be imitated by the child.

While homeschooling, many parents are surprised to find all that they learn, too. Topics that you had no interest in as a student may become fascinating to you as an adult. Seeing your enthusiasm about learning will help fuel your child’s desire to be a lifelong learner.

Benefits to Society

I’m often perplexed by the negative comments by the general public related to home education when it provides numerous benefits to society as a whole. Adults who were homeschooled are more active within their communities and civic affairs. According to HSLDA, “Seventy-one percent [of homeschool graduates] participate in an ongoing community service activity (e.g., coaching a sports team, volunteering at a school, or working with a church or neighborhood association), compared to 37% of U.S. adults of similar ages.” (Source)

One way we are all active in society is by paying taxes. As Benjamin Franklin said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” However, we want those taxes to be used effectively. Homeschooling results in lower education costs. “Taxpayers spend an average of $11,732 per pupil in public schools, plus capital expenditures. Taxpayers spend nothing on most homeschool students and homeschool families spend an average of $600 per student for their education.” (Source)

The individualization, flexibility, and personal ownership in their education that homeschoolers experience frequently results in adults who are independent thinkers. Accustomed to working outside an established system, they can become the innovators who find new and creative solutions to the challenges of the 21st century.

The decision to home educate comes with great responsibility, but with it comes great power – the power to benefit your student, your family, and the society in which you live.

What Do Homeschoolers Do All Day?

What homeschoolers do all day is as varied as the number of homeschooling families.

What homeschoolers do all day is as varied as the number of homeschooling families.

Maybe you think homeschoolers begin their academics the second the big yellow bus rolls by. Subjects change when the mother, referred to only as “Mrs. Jones” during school hours, rings the bell. Other than a 22-minute lunch break, studies continue until that same bus brings the neighborhood children back home. On the other hand, you might think that homeschoolers sleep until noon and then spend the remainder of the day in their pajamas in front of the television, snacking on popcorn. Hopefully, neither case is accurate. Consider the following real-life examples from the perspective of a homeschooling parent:

Example #1

8:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. – Try desperately to maintain sanity while caring for a five-year-old and two-year-old during a difficult pregnancy.

6:00-9:00 p.m. – Now that Dad is home to entertain the two-year-old, complete all kindergarten subjects with the five-year-old.

9:00 p.m.-midnight – Get the kids to bed, try to do a little planning, and collapse into bed crying.

Example #2

8:00 a.m. – Start the school day with prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and calendar.

8:10 a.m. – Continue unit studies with the family.

10:00 a.m. – Take a quick morning break.

10:15 a.m. – Work with each child on individual subjects.

Noon – Prepare and eat lunch.

1:00 p.m. – Continue working on individual subjects.

3:30 p.m. – Take children to dance classes or piano lessons.

6:00-10:00 p.m. – Prepare and eat supper, baths, bedtime stories, and complete some grading and planning.

Example #3

9:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. – Circulate between adolescent/pre-adolescent children, providing direction and teaching as needed.

2:00-5:30 p.m. – Take two children to local school for participation in varsity softball game.

5:30-7:00 p.m. – Dad takes one child home while Mom and other child rush through a drive-thru for supper and drive 50 miles to travel softball team practice. Child reads on the way to practice.

7:00-9:00 p.m. – Mom grades and plans during softball practice.

9:00-10:00 p.m.-Drive home from travel softball practice, discussing topics from that day’s studies.

In reviewing these schedules, you may have formed some opinion as to which parent is providing the best education or better has her “act together.” Actually, all three examples are of my own family at different stages of our homeschooling journey.

Homeschool Schedule Considerations

While there are definitely exceptions, the vast majority of families choosing to educate at home do so because they have their child’s and family’s best interests at heart. However, because each family and each child is different, what that education will entail each day is going to be different as well. Here are a few considerations in determining what your family “should” be doing each day:

1. You can generally accomplish more in less time homeschooling than in a traditional classroom. Studies show that time on task—time actually spent engaged in learning—ranges between 42% and 71% in the classroom. (Source 1)(Source 2) Despite the occasional distractions, it does not take a traditional school day to produce meaningful learning in a home setting.

2. Learning can and does take place at all hours of the day. When I was pregnant with my third child, evenings were when I felt the best. With a rambunctious two-year-old, it worked better to have our focused learning then while Dad was home to help out. Your teenager might function better being left to sleep until 9:00 in the morning instead of insisting he be up at 6:00.

3. Learning can and does take place beyond books and worksheets. Nature walks, field trips, even grocery shopping can provide teachable moments. Remember, you are growing your child’s character as well as her mind.

4. Effective homeschooling requires planning. While what you do all day as a homeschooler may differ from what your support group leader does, you still need to know what you hope to accomplish and the resources with which you are working.

5. Effective homeschooling requires scheduling. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to map out every hour of every day; however, you do need to establish some realistic guidelines.

6. Effective homeschooling requires evaluation and flexibility. Goals change, curricula changes, work schedules change, individual and family needs change. What you did one day may not work for you the next day. You do not have to continue doing something just because that’s what you’ve always done!

Regardless of the preconceived notions you or those around you might have, with a little bit of soul-searching and effort, you can schedule your homeschooling day in a way that works for you.