Learning Math Visually

As a homeschooling mama, one originally rooted in Waldorf, teaching math to a rambunctious visual learner can be daunting.  I began in Waldorf, teaching him the Quality of numbers.


This was a beautiful idea to me, I enjoyed trying to create a way to touch him with this idea.  Perhaps I should have persisted. Or, perhaps I was correct in knowing that this was not the right way for my boy.

So, we moved on to something more tangible.  I mentioned earlier, that Isaiah is a visual learner.  A very visual learner, and so, I decided to give a program called MathUSee a try.  This turned out to be fairly more successful.  Up until this point,  Isaiah had a great deal of difficulty understanding numbers past 10.  The shear nonsensity of their names made it almost impossible for him to decipher.  Eleven? Twelve?  What do these things mean, he wondered? Even further down the line was the elusive twenty and thirty.  If you let him count un-interrupted he could count to 20 by rote.  However, if you asked him what came after 10? Well that was another story.  Often when rattling off his numbers eleventytwo came after 19.  Because what was 20 anyway?

MathUSee really helped him to understand the “quality” of numbers in a way that was completely comfortable to him.


Using blocks of different colors, he began to understand the significance of the placement of numbers.  That where a number falls on “decimal street” determines how you say a number.


The blue bars represent the “10’s” the green blocks represent the “units” or “ones”.  Here he is building the 74.  He is learning that the placement of the 7 is the same as 7 “tens”, the placement of the 4 is the same as 4″units”.

For every number we learn, he is learning the “quality” of that number.  Isaiah started to like math, he began to enjoy “building numbers”.  Of course, every once in a while those blocks became make-shift legos, and math turned into an airfield and landing planes, but that’s OK.  To me that was a sign that he was on over-load and we should come back to it.

Admittedly, MathUSee is not as beautiful as the Waldorf way.  However, I believe now that I have a grasp of MathUSee, I can find a way to blend the two.  Yes it is un-orthodox.  Yet, I still continue to see the beauty in Waldorf every day, and my desire to keep it’s learning style as part of our lives is very strong.  Once I find the best way to reach him, it seems I can back into where we should be with Waldorf.

I read a very inspiring post today by Sheila at Sure as The World.  It was an example of learning the Grade 1: Four Processes.  She has definitely inspired me to go back over my Waldorf curriculum and see how I might link back in the beauty of the story telling to explain the four processes.  Thank you Sheila!  I will let you all know how it goes!

Our Block of Chess or Our Chess Block

Who says chess can’t be a block?  I’ve never read about it on one of my homeschooling sites.  Wait, let me look…nope, even my favorite site Homeschool Share doesn’t have one.  You know every time I read that over I read cheese block!  LOL!IMG_0359

Recently Isaiah has developed an interest in chess.  I was never a chess player, but we have my father’s old chess set in the house.  I know how the pieces move, I know how you win, but I do not know one ounce of the strategy that goes into winning.  I figure that doesn’t matter much, what does matter is that he’s waking up, getting himself ready, setting up the chess set and excited to go!

So I’m liking the idea of chess as our first block of the day for a week.  We are replacing movement, which I think isn’t a bad idea for this boy.  He tends to be hot and cold when it comes to movement.  I figure If I don’t force a circle time or movement time and instead alternate week to week we have a better chance of it not becoming a struggle.  This is a way to make our first block of the day a win-win.  After reading the research , I am happy to alternate movement and chess week to week.

From Johns Hopkins University “It’s not about Kings, Queens, and Rooks, but rather, quadrants and coordinates, thinking strategically and foreseeing consequences. It’s about lines and angles, weighing options and making decisions. Chess might just be the perfect teaching and learning tool.”

“Research shows, there is a strong correlation between learning to play chess and academic achievement. In 2000, a landmark study found that students who received chess instruction scored significantly higher on all measures of academic achievement, including math, spatial analysis, and non-verbal reasoning ability (Smith and Cage, 2000).

IMG_0361While studies have shown chess to have a positive impact on kids in elementary, middle and high school, AF4C targeted second and third graders as the evidence, and certainly our experience, suggests it’s the ideal age. Eight and nine year-old minds and thinking skills are developing rapidly, and chess teaches higher level thinking skills such as the ability to visualize, analyze, and think critically.” (read this article here)

For me the test results are not an issue.  Whatever happens happens, but I can’t deny the strengthening effect that chess has on the way my son uses his mind.  Without forcing him to think like an adult, or teach him formal reasoning, he is learning all of these skills passively.  Just as they point out later in the article, my son originally knew how the pieces moved, but moved them without much thought.  Then after a few days he began to ask, “If I move here, then you can get me right?” he would spend much more time deciding exactly which piece to move where.  He still was operating more on the defensive than the offensive, but I am sure that’s coming.  Funnily enough, he didn’t even seem to care who won, although it often ended in a draw.  Since chess is new to me too, who knows who will be the chess champion before long?!

Mom. I’m feeling mad. I’m going to felt.

Yes, you heard it right. He was feeling mad. That’s been happening a little bit more lately as we’ve been cooped up inside due to the horrendous midwest weather.


Last week I taught Isaiah how to felt. I tried a couple of months ago. Back when I was so inspired by the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival that I wanted to move to a sheep farm. At the time, he just wasn’t interested. I thought spinning and felting would be something we could enjoy together, but I wasn’t daunted. Even though he showed no interest, I didn’t let my interest wain. I wanted to felt. Needle felting is cathartic, how could it not be? You get to pound a hunk of wool with a needle. A lot. So of course I completely understood Isaiah’s statement, and was very proud of him for identifying a need and finding a constructive way to deal with it. After a few minutes he went from being mad to wanting to felt a pancake. Yes a pancake. I know, I felt birds, gnomes, princesses and even little play men for Isaiah. I never thought of felting a pancake, but hey, who am I to squelch his creativity?


More about needle felting. There are a ton of great resources on YouTube, I basically taught myself by searching for needle felting tutorials and watching a few. You need some supplies, and I suggest getting decent ones. I picked mine up from the Sheep and Wool Festival from Mielke’s Fiber Arts. Don’t get them from Michaels, their stuff is cheap AND expensive. I think felting is a great project for kids who are responsible enough not to poke themselves, or can handle poking themselves without tears. Because, let’s face it, even I poke myself 🙂 The needles you use for felting are barbed, so that they push the wool down and then lift it up again as it comes out (which is what it does when you stick it in your finger too). The point is you are tangling the fine fibers together so much that eventually what was soft fluffy wool becomes a dense wool object, it is really quite cool, and very satisfying! Don’t be afraid to try it, I think it’s something even the most craft-impaired person can do.



A simple Valentine for a craft-resistant boy


I love all of the blogs I follow.  I love the helpful hints, the crafts, the Momma support.  I love it.  I am also jealous.  I’ve been trying to find my way with the boy on our homeschooling journey. Sometimes it’s a hit, sometimes it’s a miss. I really never know. Although now I’m thinking I should. I think it’s pretty obvious. Combustion, electricity, motors….can’t go wrong there.  Crafts that last longer than 5 minutes, not so much.  But how can I resist making valentines? I also think as a Momma, I deserve some home-made Valentines from the boy I love!  Since I’m a homeschooling Momma, it’s up to me, right?  So here’s our attempt, we tried a simple Valentine for my craft-resistant boy 🙂


We got the idea from one of my favorite blogs Boy Mama Teacher Mama.  We cut out sponges in the shape of hearts and hot glued the extra pieces of sponge to the back of the hearts to use as “handles”.  Of course Isaiah preferred the hot glue part.  He got a little lost in making spider webs out of hot glue while I prepared our craft area.

I cut out 7 large construction paper hearts.  Isaiah likes to cut paper.  That’s a craft, right?  He cut paper, while I cut hearts.  Next I put 3 colors of paint on some paper plates, white, pink, and red.  Time to stamp!  He stamped 4 cards, I was amazed and impressed that he was so careful about not getting the colors all mixed up on the sponges! Then the dot marker came out .  The last Valentine got dot markered, that was OK.  Only the Valentine’s his name was “Stinky”.  Yup.  “Hey Mom, let’s give Stinky to Josie (his cousin), but don’t tell her his name is Stinky.”  We’ll see who squeals first.

Once the stamping was done we let them dry.  Isaiah helped with the clean-up and we set them aside.  After they dried we wrote a to: and from: on them. When I turned my back his true colors came out.  He began drawing a generator right on top of one of his Valentines!  Oh well, talk about an original piece of artwork.  I am sure whichever grandparent get’s it will be thrilled!  How do you get your craft resistant child to do some crafts?


Dr Isaiah releases some oxygen

So this week my son has become re-fascinated with VideoScience by Science House.  They have an app for your iPad or phone, and they also have the website, that I have linked to.

I have mentioned in previous posts on Break the Parenting Mold, that Isaiah has a fascination with combustion.  I have often wondered what that would morph into, maybe nothing, maybe chemistry?  Who knows, but for now it’s constructive, and we’re learning.  We also added an unscheduled science block for the week.  One of the many joys of homeschooling!

Here is the actual link to the project, it lists materials needed as well.  It is definitely a kitchen experiment, which is perfect for homeschoolers!  Just click on this link Flame testing liberated oxygen

Shared with Taming the Goblin Kids Co-op And TGIF Linky Party

Once upon a time, there was a boy who wouldn’t form draw


I think one of the most eye-opening events for me was when I tried to start our form drawing block.  Up until now we had been doing Waldorf kindergarten for two years.  Well to be honest, Waldorf kindergarten as we had been doing it was no different from our day to day anyway.  We went for walks, we visited the forest preserve, we spent a lot of time at home.  It was just our life.  Enter first grade, block one, form drawing.  Hmmm…. coloring was never very appealing to my boy, neither was painting for that matter.  (insert pre-dread for water-color block)  I was truly excited to do form drawing.  A little concerned that I didn’t understand it, so I did a few online tutorials with the various Waldorf voices out on the web.  I studied the form drawing book I obtained as part of my curriculum, and I reached out to the experts in the various Waldorf yahoo groups.  By the time we started first grade I felt I was truly prepared.  We would start slowly, we would notice the shapes in nature, we would walk the shapes, draw them with our bodies, move to making them with large muscle movements in our arms and legs.  It all sounded so beautiful.  I was ready.

That’s funny.  It didn’t matter how ready I was, I wasn’t the one who needed convincing.  From the third day of my attempt at Form Drawing the resistance set in.  I reached out to the experts.  These were the responses I got “you must be using a fake sweet voice” (because I said I was being so gentle about it), “you just tell him this is what we’re doing today” (sure that works really well with this kid) “just skip it and come back to it” (best advice I got).

So we skipped it.

In the beginning there was Waldorf


You can read the Why My Way page to get the details. So I’ll be brief.  This blog is meant to chronicle my transition from homeschooling Waldorf, out of Waldorf completely, and then letting a little back in again.  I know it sounds odd.  Sometimes you need to take a step back to see what’s really there.  For me to see the value in certain aspects of Waldorf, I needed to move away from it all together.   The imbalance that occurred was easily remedied when I found a way to let the pieces I valued most back into our days.  For those of you not familiar with the Waldorf method, I will not go into the details here.  Feel free to google, and you will find a myriad of answers.  I will tell you this.  There are some very important and beautiful things that I have taken from studying the Waldorf method.  I have learned the value in having a Waldorf rhythm in our everyday, the importance of quiet time, of time spent in nature, of using your hands to create.  The value of too much too soon when dealing with a child’s delicate mind and the beauty of reading classic fairy tales and slow beautifully descriptive stories.  I have also come up against resistance with my child when trying to implement other Waldorf ideals, resistance that was upsetting the balance and beauty we had created.  As well as that, I also have serious reservations about the belief system behind the Waldorf method, a spiritual ideal called anthroposophy.

That being said, my first blog posts will illustrate some of our difficulties, but I will quickly move on to more joyous posts.  As I have found a way to blend our traditional homeschool and our Waldorf homeschool together!