Is Math Confusing? Only If You're Doin' It Wrong

My wife has math phobia. Equations and numbers shut her down. But when she solves a problem -- such as how much fabric she'll need to make a skirt with so many folds or whatever -- she jumps up and down and proudly tells me that she "used math to do things!"

That's the thing, see? Math is useful. It's powerful. But too often, we're paralyzed by it.

From what I'm reading, the latest in edutheory suggests a rather complex way of solving a simple math problem like 9+6. You can read a bit more here and click through to an article and a video showing the process. The gist: 6 can become 1 and 5. Add 1 to 9 to make 10. Now your addition problem is an easy one: 10 + 5 = 15.

You probably notice you do a similar thing, yes? Try it.

8 + 7 = ?

Take 2 from 7 to make the 8 a 10 and now the problem is 10 + 5 again. Easy!

But try to tell that to a kid who isn't thrilled with math and watch his eyes glaze over. And, to me, this overwhelmed feeling makes sense because doing this kind of solving is skipping over the "real math" that's happening behind the scenes. We're assuming a bunch of steps. I'm going to do the Algebra for you so you can see how complex this method really is:

Problem: 9 + 6 = x

Sub step: 10 - 9 = y => y = 1

New equation: 9 + y + (6 - y) = x

Sub step #2: 6 - y = z => 6 - 1 = z => z = 5

New equation #2: 9 + 1 + z = x => 10 + 5 = x => 15 = x

I firmly believe that Algebra isn't hard. But it can be overwhelming if you just drop complex equations on someone, like 9 + y + z = x given z = (6 - y) and y = 1

Glen makes some excellent observations over on the original blog post. Short version: It is convenient to regroup into tens for us for some math equations. But being able to do so does not demonstrate that you understand that adding 6 to 9 merely moves our position on the number line six whole numbers, leaving us at 15.

Skimming because numbers make you feel ill? Start reading again here

You and your children can understand math. You can find it enjoyable -- perhaps only in short bursts using it to make Cosplay like my wife. But sometimes the way people try to teach the concepts just doesn't make sense.

Enter MathTacular: Unbelievably Understandable Math

Don't let some complex and confusing instruction get you down. Grab a great homeschool math program that matches your students' needs and the MathTacular DVDs, and go forth finding joy in understanding math!

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Pseudo-Dad

P.S. Is your math program not working? Click the link for some information and great tips from other homeschoolers.

P.P.S. Please watch the MathTacular trailer videos up there. It'll take a few minutes but they are ton of fun. Some of my best work, if I do say so myself <smile>.

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Mom ... Do I *have* to read?

StudentReadingWords I never imagined I would hear from one of my kids. I grew up loving to read ... devoured books. I was the kid that hid under the covers with a flashlight and a book after lights out. I couldn't begin to understand why someone wouldn't want to read when given the chance. Yet here was one of my own saying those very words ...

These thoughts ran through my mind again the other day as I read an interesting article on why some kids do not enjoy reading. In the article, Frank Cottrell Boyce shares his concern that we are killing the joy of reading by expecting too much analysis and feedback each time a child reads a book. I don't know that this was my child's issue with reading, but the author of the article makes a good point.

Time and time again I come across teachers reading a story and then asking immediately for some kind of feedback. A piece of ‘creative writing’ ‘inspired by’ the story. Some opinions about character and wow words. Something to show the parents or the school inspectors.

I do think there is value in discussion and interaction with what a student is reading. Lots of learning goes on when you talk about or write about a story. Much of Sonlight's program is based on reading with discussion. However, there is also much to be said about reading purely for the joy of it.

Pleasure in reading, Cottrell Boyce will say, is deeply important. “Pleasure is a profound and potent form of attention, a kind of slow thinking."

I think it is legitimate to say that not every book scheduled in Sonlight's Instructor's Guide needs to be discussed or written about. Discussion and comprehension questions are provided, writing assignments are listed ... but now and again I don't believe it's a bad idea to let a student enjoy a book simply for the sake of reading for pleasure. Let them devour and savor each page purely for the pleasure of becoming engrossed in the story.

As the holidays approach and you're wondering what to get your kids for Christmas ... let me encourage you to fill their lives with wonderful books. Not books for school ... but adventures and journeys to be taken between the covers of a book.

Still on the journey ...
~Judy Wnuk

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Your College Student Could Get More Back Than You Put In

I'm talking purely dollars and cents. If you have a student entering college this year, they could win a scholarship from Sonlight worth more than what it costs to buy complete programs from Sonlight for the last 15 years.

That right: You could win a college scholarship from Sonlight worth more -- financially* -- than every complete program we offer preschool through high school.


There are 13 scholarships available this year, ranging from four grand over four years all the way up to $20,000 toward your university education.

Click here to learn more about Sonlight's college scholarships.

Scholarship Money

You may have a few questions. Yes?

Q. What are my odds of winning?
A. Since you're an awesome Sonlighter, your odds are really good. Apply.

Q. What if I've got more skills and interest in something other than academics?
A. We've got something for you! We offer two "tracks" for scholarships, one academically weighted, the other more focused on creativity and activity.

Q. I'm sure there's all kinds of hurdles and stuff blocking me for being eligible. You know, the fine print stuff. Should I contact Sonlight before starting to fill out paperwork to make sure I qualify?
A. Definitely. It's not all that complicated, but you're busy and we want to save you time. The contact information as well as the specific requirements are all laid out for you on the scholarships page.

Q. Should I keep reading this blog post, or go get started?
A. You already know the answer to that.

For those of you who don't take instruction well -- and so find game demos like the one for The Stanley Parable hilarious, like me -- thank you for still reading. I have nothing else to really say about college scholarships other than, perhaps, to avoid giving your students access to game platforms like Steam which regularly run sales making games like the aforementioned only about $5, the cost of which only builds up when you feel like you have to buy 4,000 of such games to take advantage of the opportunity, only to find that the real loss is in your time which is limited as a college student. Perhaps, thinking back on it, I shouldn't have shown you that game link ... but I found the demo pretty funny. If you decide to check it out, let me know what you think.

...or don't. Because by then you may have found that not following narrative direction leads to more humorous outcomes.

Bottom line: Click here.

Decide what you want to do from there.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Pseudo-Dad

* There's no way a paltry $20,000 is worth more than the Sonlight experience you shared <smile>.

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Taking Time

I am primarily a doer. I like to take care of myself. I like to care for my family. But these past few
weeks, months really, have been flying by with not a lot of doing. Being hugely pregnant most of the summer limited me. Forced me to sit more than stand. To drive when I wanted to walk. To take help. And I gained something lovely: the ability to just take the time.

We had a scare at 36 weeks. I had contractions and we headed into the hospital. I had a c-section scheduled for 2 weeks later because of past issues, but we were so not ready to have the baby that night. It made me pause and reassess. To acknowledge that nothing I was doing around the house was more important than just sitting, resting, and letting that baby grow.

And then Jackson was born. No crises, no emergencies.

Me with Jackson

I can't even begin to share the magic of being able to just welcome our son. To be able to walk into the operating room. To be awake and aware when he was born. To be able to snuggle him. To witness his sisters meeting him. To come home and just continue to sit. To have it be sunny and light and peaceful. To just be able to look at his face and fall in love. It was beautiful. A new story for us. A beautiful chapter.

I wanted to bottle those days up before the busyness of life started up again.

As the weeks pass, I've learned that sitting on the back porch rubbing my baby's peach fuzz head, this is peace. Deciding to sway a few extra moments because he's sad is time well spent. I can sit with him on my lap every evening, looking in his eyes and smiling. Noticing how the cute pjs he fit in last week are now making a sausage shaped boy: such a blessing.

Take time. Absorb the season you are in. Dwell in moments. It can be so obvious when they are young, but it's happening even as they grow. Look at your children. Do you really see them? See who they are and who they are becoming?

With Luke's gut wrenching post yesterday, this, which I'd written up Sunday night still excited and joyful at getting to know Luke and Brittany’s new little one, is such a stark contrast. But the idea of taking time is equally important in seasons of grief. Take time to pause. To acknowledge the loss, be it a life, a sickness, or even a loss of freedom. In our spin-as- fast-as-you-can world, sit. Let it sink in and allow Christ to meet you there and begin the healing work.

Look. See. Talk. Be present in the moment. Take some time. Sometimes, life is hard. And sometimes, life is beautiful.

Until next time,

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We Were Pregnant

As she sobs into my chest, my arm around her, I remember the first time I thought about being there for my pregnant wife. I must have been around 12 years old. I had recently learned about how crazy, painful, and plain ridiculous the birthing process is. And I realized, in that moment, that I would have a hard time being in the room while my wife gave birth; to see her go through that pain and be able to do nothing ... that'd be terrible. I knew then, as I know now, that I'm too much of a "fixer" for that. I need to be able to help. But when it comes to bringing that kid into the world, I'd be powerless.

Fast forward a couple decades to last night.

My wife is pregnant for the second -- probably third -- time. One miscarried a few years ago at eight weeks in a horrifyingly bloody mess. It traumatized my wife but she managed to stuff that pain way, way, way down. But then, as eight weeks approached for this pregnancy, she couldn't hold it together anymore. She'd cry and couldn't sleep. She'd contain herself while friends and family were around and then melt down the moment we were alone. She was terrified it'd happen again. And so we had kept the news a secret, lest by telling others we'd jinx it (one of my wife's biggest shadow fears/beliefs).

Ten weeks.

Then someone shared the article I'm Pregnant. So Why Can't I Tell You?

I read it.

Then I sent it to my wife with the subject line: Read

She did.

And, after a few frightened hours of discussion, we started to spread the news. My little brother already knew (he's staying with us and has been an awesome support for Brittany through all of this). My little sister. Brittany's sister. Brittany's mom. My parents. A few people from church. Another friend. My older sister.

All were thrilled, elated, ecstatic.

Tiny Footprints

Then, about 8pm last night, the spotting started. At first faint and dark. Then more regular and red.

That's when I found myself holding my pregnant wife as the world collapsed around her. And I could do nothing to help bring this baby safely into the world. That was hard -- way, way, way harder than what my wild preteen imagination could construct. I was powerless, helpless, and my wife was in emotional distress.

Somewhere between 1:30 and 3am it was over.

We'd lost our second child (probably our third).

Two hours later I got up to go to work.


Lunch, two hours ago.

My wife came down to visit since I'm in meetings this afternoon. She's doing well. Exhausted after the last few nights of little sleep, but the grace of God and the peace of Christ is carrying her through all of this. The midwife we had selected "just happened" to be in the area and could stop by and pray with her. One of our friends came over and just hung out with her. People have been supportive and she is sensing God doing something in the background.

"This is a new beginning of something," she tells me. "I don't know what, but God's doing something."

That He is.

But what, we don't know. I'm discovering this as I keep walking into ever more crazy situations where I am powerless to do anything and must rely on the goodness of God and the redemption of Christ to make stuff happen. And since His mercies are new every morning, I'm not at all surprised that He's doing new things in us as well.

How am I? I don't know. But we're hanging in there and hanging on for the ride.

Your prayers are most welcome.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Pseudo-Dad

P.S. Fitting, I suppose, that this is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. If you haven't been keeping up with my Other Posts of Note, you can read two relevant posts here and here. And if you didn't take the time to read I'm Pregnant. So Why Can't I Tell You?, I suggest you do.

P.P.S. If you're wondering why I kept referring to our "probable third" miscarriage, we think that there was another one that initially appeared to be a "heavy flow" month but was probably another early miscarriage.

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An International Trend You Already Enjoy

Sonlight families are on top of an international trend, and we may not even know it!

Have you seen articles online that ask people to look up from their electronic gadgets once in a while? I know I have. Many new studies talk about the risks of the ubiquitous distractions in daily life – higher stress, difficulty focusing, and decreased productivity.

One common antidote is to practice focusing on just one thing. Then I read about the new Slow-Reading Movement. In various forms, this popular trend calls us to focus on a book by reading for at least 30 minutes each day. It asks us to stop just skimming and really read. Looks like Sonlight might be just what the doctor ordered.

The Wall Street Journal reports that groups from California to New Zealand have cropped up to help adults read more frequently. These Slow-Reading Groups meet regularly to provide a quiet, communal place to get lost in a book. Club members turn off all their electronic devices and sit together in silence while they all read. They talk of the joy of becoming absorbed in the story, among many other benefits.

A Sonlight family reading together
Sonlight mom Esther L meets with her "Slow-Reading Group" ... in other words, she enjoys a story with her children during a typical homeschool day.

Maybe I should write to The Wall Street Journal and tell them that we have our own slow-reading groups. They're called Sonlight families! Every day, around the world, Sonlight families sit down together and read. Through Read-Alouds and silent reading, we sink into real stories. Rather than just skimming online articles, we let ourselves become absorbed in the characters and plot. For this special time every day we turn off the TV, close our computers and enjoy the pleasure of real books.

As if that joy isn't enough, I just saw a study that suggests reading for just six minutes can reduce stress by 68%! Remember this next time you have a frazzled day with the kids at home. Sitting down to read together can really help you regroup.

So let's carry on, Sonlighters! We don't need a fancy club to reap the benefits of reading. With Sonlight, we get to pause and enjoy a good story every day we homeschool.


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When You Really Are All Alone

Her eyes are dry as she talks to me, her tears bored with their constant repetition. "I'm alone," she tells me. "I have no friends. My family is far away." She's also recently started school, the responsibility an unfamiliar weight. "Life's hard."

I pray with her. There's little more I can do. I ask that God bring her friends and encouragement. But the bosom buddy, the kindred spirit, the friend closer than family ... that person doesn't show. I lose touch with her while she walks the college life alone.

Then, a month ago, she appears, smiling, joking, telling both me and her husband that we introverts really can make new friends. "If you don't know what to talk about, ask about their dog," she suggests. Her husband gladly tells me about their new pet before they move off, arm in arm. And I'm left there, alone, wondering what happened. How did she get from there to here?

All Alone

I don't know that story. Wish I did. I feel like I'd have more to share with you.

My lonely years weren't that lonely. My abandonment issues were with God, not people. I have some empathy for those who experience isolation and the fatigue of carrying themselves day in and day out. But that utter loneliness, the experience of being truly alone? ...that I've never had.

Then Bethany wrote a post about being a control freak that spoke much more, to me, about the experience of being really alone. More than that, I think the post is about the experience of being completely alone as a new mother. And if I've read other blog posts correctly over the years, I don't think she's alone in that experience.

Here's the thing that's got me thinking: Bethany doesn't share the story of how she got from there to here. Wish she did. I feel like there'd be something super useful to share with you in that.

Instead, she glosses over those years of her life. She sums them up as years of "prayer, reflection, and conversations with good friends." I want the specifics because I have this nagging thought that there'd be a pattern in them, a secret, the secret to not being isolated, or -- at the very least -- how to survive the lonely days and nights and hours.

My guess is that the reason we don't know these stories and get to peek behind the curtain and find the nugget of truth is simple. The story is boring. The "secret" is common knowledge. The answer is simple, but painful: When you really are alone, you're not.

The Lord's sufficient grace is there.

'So what?' my inner trust issues ask. 'Grace isn't a real person, a hug, encouragement. It's not something that gets the laundry done or deals with your child's temper tantrum.'

You know what? I almost believe that guy. It certainly feels true.

But grace is embodied in a Person. And while it may be long spans between hugs, His Body is pretty good at giving them, at least at my church. And by His grace, I find myself encouraged by strangers and "e-maginary friends" on the internet.

Being alone isn't easy. But the story, if I had to guess, is one of slowly learning to draw closer to Christ. Bethany says it this way in her post:

I don't need to be in control. I just need to stay close to the One who is. I can't possibly plan around what He will send each day, but I can choose to accept it, humble, broken, and open-handed.

If you're feeling alone on your journey -- be it as a mother, homeschooler, or otherwise -- stay the course. What you are doing matters. What you are sacrificing is worth it. What you are losing is nothing compared to what you are gaining. And as you let "good enough" be good enough, you'll certainly learn how to do things better. And even if you are really all alone, you're not alone. If nothing else, there is a community here on this blog, on Facebook, on the Forums. And there are homeschool Advisors ready to answer your questions, weigh your options, and pray with you.

If you've come through a time of being utterly alone, do you have any wisdom or encouragement to share? I'd love to hear your story!

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Pseudo-Dad

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