- Math Skills. Adding up dice counts, calculating the score, and determining probabilities are activities that are a part of many board games.
- Thinking Ahead. More complex games require you to strategize for future moves.
- Concentration. Paying attention during the game can be critical to an effective strategy, which also translates into real life skills.
- Taking turns. Rolling the dice, taking a card, moving your piece, talking about the strategies are all disciplines of the game that transfer to real life.
- Actions and Consequences. Board games give a closed environment that more easily tracks cause-and-effect. Actions have consequences—both positive and negative—on you and your opponent.
- Making Difficult Decisions. After kids realize that actions have consequences, then they need to develop the skill of making tough choices. Choosing between equally rewarding (or punishing) options and playing through those consequences helps kids learn what criteria to pay attention to and what to ignore.
- Teamwork. Cooperative games are helpful when parents are trying to decide if they should go easy on their kids or teach them to lose well. Cooperative games get players to work toward a common goal, similar to real life situations.
- Good sportsmanship. Playing competitive games with your kids gives you the opportunity to model good behavior whether you win or lose. They will come to enjoy playing more than winning. Teach them the difference between in-game attacks and personal attacks.
- Face-to-face interaction. Setting up the board, moving pieces, taking turns, discussing the moves, and cleaning up provide opportunities to develop interpersonal skills that video games do not.
- Lifelong enjoyment. All of my children are now adults, but they still love playing board games. Whenever we gather, a table is cleared and someone pulls out the newest board game for hours of enjoyment.
Some of the skills children learn through board games are:
This has been an issue with every teen in my house—so much so that I have now come to expect it and categorize it as normal (for some reason that always makes me feel better). Allowing the teen to determine his own time schedule or setting the time schedule for him are both viable options; I have tried both methods (along with screaming, crying, pulling my hair out, and threatening early death--none of those methods work for the long-term, by the way). Teens' bodies need a lot of sleep and, for some strange reason, they don't want it to happen at night. This too shall pass; however, surviving it and encouraging moves toward the next level of maturity are important.
Studies on melatonin secretion show that teens function best at late at night. Research on melatonin levels reveals that “melatonin secretion occurs at a later time in adolescents as they mature; thus, it is difficult for them to go to sleep earlier at night. The melatonin secretion also turns off later in the morning, which makes it harder to wake up early (Carskadon et al., 1998).” The National Sleep Foundation says that adolescents have “more alertness at 8 pm than earlier in the day, and even greater alertness at 10 pm,” making it hard for teens to fall asleep even when sent to bed at a reasonable time. As a result, many schools have switched to later start times for high school students because studies show that teens learn better if they get enough sleep: “Academic performance outcomes, including grades earned in core subject areas of math, English, science and social studies, plus performance on state and national achievement tests, attendance rates and reduced tardiness show significantly positive improvement with the later start times of 8:35 AM or later.” (“Examining the Impact of Later High School Start Times,: Wahlstrom et al.)
As homeschoolers, we have the opportunity to be flexible for each child, and include our students in the planning stages. Perhaps you could consider an academic start time of 9:30 AM this year, 9:00 AM next year, and then possibly 8:30 AM the following year in hopes of helping him shift toward a schedule that is more accommodating for summer jobs and college. Another approach might be to discuss his night pattern. We have a "no screens after 10" rule, and since my teens believe life doesn’t exist without a screen, this allows their bodies time to settle; I’ve observed that it is difficult for kids to pay attention to their physical needs when they have a screen in front of them.
One routine for sleep that is related to productivity for adults is the 10-3-2-1-0 approach:
The part of me that wanted to get the teens out of bed instead of letting them get enough sleep always won on weekdays; so much for flexibility. I didn't let my kids sleep past 8:00 AM; but in hindsight, I see that it was just one of many methods that can be used. Now that my youngest is in PSEO and doesn't have to get up until 8:45 AM for his first class at 10, I see that reality beat out my idealism.
I breathe a sigh of relief when I finally hear my children value their sleep enough to determine a reasonable bedtime, which has yet to happen before the age of 22. In the meantime, thoughts dance in my head about the early bird, the ten o’clock scholar, the studies supporting later start times, and the realities of melatonin shifts in the teenager who is still banging doors in my house at midnight.
In some households, math is a four-letter word. It is the subject in which students most often get behind and need the summer months to catch up. However, with a strategic plan and an understanding of the many options available, a smoother path to success is possible.
Getting ready for high school math
We had several subjects that fell by the wayside in grade school and high school at our house, but math wasn’t one of them. Studying the math lesson for the day was on par with brushing teeth: Is your math done? Are your teeth brushed? This approach is essential because it is an uphill battle trying to catch up in math.
We continued through the same curriculum from kindergarten through sixth, adding different approaches to learning the concepts, like manipulatives, games (one of the favorite and most effective methods at our house), flashcards (not a fan), and physical activities, like measuring ingredients in the kitchen and measuring wood in the workroom, and hopping from number to number as they counted or added and subtracted—a favorite for lower elementary students. A tool that we found very effective to introduce the concepts of algebra was Borenson Hands-On Equations.
8 to 10 Problem
Math in middle school and junior high should take about an hour and a half each day: learning the lesson, reviewing the examples, and then working 8 – 10 problems. Additional homework and review can be accomplished using games and other techniques (try Khan Academy for review).
Did you just say 8 – 10 problems a day? But our curriculum has 45 problems! That doesn’t mean that your student needs to do them all (perhaps it’s no wonder she hates math?). Choose 8 – 10 problems that cover the different portions of the lesson. Then she reworks the ones she got wrong. If she still doesn’t understand the concepts, choose 8 – 10 different problems for the next day. That way she sits on that lesson another day to make sure she understands the concepts before moving on to the next lesson.
Stepping into high school math should be like turning the next page in a book, so develop a plan for getting there:
For some practical math tools, math curriculum ideas, and math games, see the Rainbow Resources article titled "Math Rx."
My goal regarding spelling was that they would one day be able to spell most words correctly in their writing, which includes knowing whether or not spell check is being helpful. That meant that instead of lists and lists of spelling words, we worked on dictation to improve spelling. Have you noticed that your student might get all of her spelling words correct on a list, but when she writes one of the words in a paragraph a few hours later, she spells it wrong? Dictating the spelling words in sentences for her to write helps bridge the gap between the spelling list and actual usage.
In analyzing the test questions for the spelling portion, I realized the test was really measuring the student’s ability to do editing work rather than spelling; students are asked to find the words that are incorrectly spelled. So in response to this discovery, I changed the way I corrected their dictation assignments: instead of telling them which words they got wrong, I put a number on the LINE where there were errors so they knew how many errors to find and correct. This turned the dictation assignment into an editing exercise. And honestly, I saw no improvement on their test scores, but I realized this method enhanced my own goals for their spelling: the ability to write with fewer spelling errors.
Let’s break down the launch into seven steps:
“The letters are just all so overwhelming. I don’t even know where to start! CCP? AP? CLEP? PSEO? What do all these letters even mean and how can it save me money?" -Tina*
Tina*, a first-time homeschooling mom, sent me an email recently and I could immediately sense her frustration. She wanted to do it right but simply didn’t know the lingo. Perhaps you find yourself in her shoes. You know where you want your student to end up, but you’re just not sure how to get there or what all the letters stand for and how they can potentially help in the long run.
Having spent the last 18+ years working in the registrar's office at Cedarville University, I've counseled with thousands of parents and students, helping them navigate, from the university perspective, the best plan of attack.
For those of you Minnesotans (I actually grew up in Faribault), you know it as PSEO. In Ohio (where I currently live), it's called CCP. In Washington State, it's called Running Start and in Florida, it's called Dual Enrollment. To further break it down, every college/university has a name for it. At Cedarville, we call it "College Now" and students can start taking college classes as early as 7th grade (not something I recommend, however). Enrolling your student in an early college program (no matter what the name or acronym) assumes a few things:
1. Your student has the motivation to succeed at the college level. Keep in mind that the grades earned are part of the student's permanent record. Whether the courses are online or in-class, the student needs to be prepared for the rigors of collegiate work and willing to work hard, study hard, and participate in group projects. Enrollment in college classes takes away time from other activities, such as sports, fine arts, and even church-sponsored events. Are these worth sacrificing? I cannot answer that question, but I will say that your student has one chance to be in high school, and we don't want them to resent college before they even get here!
2. Your student needs to have a general idea of their ultimate college major sooner rather than later. As you navigate the tricky world of transfer credits, you will likely receive a "yes" answer to the question, "Do these credits transfer?" The question you need to be asking is, "How do these credits transfer for this particular major?" We obviously want to leave room for the Holy Spirit to guide and direct so that when/if your student does decide to change their major, (and research tells us that 60-80% of college students will change their major at least once and 25% will change their major more than once), the lines of communication are open, but having a general idea is helpful to gear them in the right direction.
3. Your student needs to take full ownership at the college-level. When it comes to communicating with professors, it's the student who reaches out and resolves the issue. If there's a question about a due date or clarification on an assignment, the student is the one to work through the proper channels to clarify. You are there to guide and direct them, but the ultimate responsibility is on the student, and everyone benefits when the student takes a proactive approach to their education.
Taking high school classes while in college has great benefits, but should not be approached as a one-size-fits-all. Each student is unique and each college situation is unique. Ask questions, never assume, and pray for guidance and clarity along the way!
*Name was changed.
PSEO is the buzz acronym for Post-Secondary Enrollment Option, a program unique to MN and a few other states in which 10th, 11th, and 12th grade students can take college classes and earn college credits free. The main purpose for starting this program back in 1985 was “to promote rigorous course taking and improve student transitions to postsecondary education.” In 2011 nearly 25,000 students in MN participated in the program, which includes 31 colleges and universities. Classes are available online or in the classrooms on college campuses.
Register for PSEO
The 2016-17 PSEO registration forms are probably available on college websites at this point. I would suggest starting the registration process now whether or not you and your student have decided on PSEO for the fall. By the time you get all the papers together and sent in, and they get back to you with Accu-Placer dates, and you get the earliest date for PSEO orientation, it will be April. (How time flies when you're having so much fun!)
My philosophy on PSEO in high school
I aimed to have my children participate in the PSEO program starting in 11th grade. That meant developing a plan for 7th through 10th grades and trying to keep them on pace so they would be prepared for rigorous college classes in 11th and 12th.
Some days I thought we wouldn’t make it, like with the child who couldn’t write a complete sentence or comprehend a science textbook in 7th grade. I am happy to report that he has since gone on to get his Master’s degree in electrical engineering and wrote a 100-page thesis, but while sitting on the couch with him taking turns reading the biology textbook aloud in 9th grade, I truly wondered if he would ever make it.
Students develop quickly in high school, so even if your 10th grader seems a universe away from “college material,” keep all the doors of opportunity open for the fall of his junior year. When August comes, you can always decide NOT to participate in the PSEO program, but if you haven’t prepared the way by starting to apply now, you can’t decide to participate once August comes.
One caution regarding online PSEO courses: these work well for some students, but others find this method of learning frustrating. In many cases, online courses end up being more work than the classroom courses because the students are required to learn the material by reading rather than through lecture and discussion. Online courses are a “last resort” at our house.
If you would like help navigating through this option and maximizing this benefit, email, call, or text me to schedule a one-hour session ($40) targeting the specific situation of your student. 952-220-3161
Let’s review the testing routine for high school students and add some explanation so each student can determine their own best path.
Here are seven differences between the SAT and ACT tests to consider as you determine which college entrance exam to take.
Determiner: If you are more familiar with algebra than geometry and trigonometry, then they should choose the SAT test. If you are strong in math and can memorize the basic formulas, then choose the ACT.
2. Do you require a calculator? A new change to the SAT is that calculators are no longer allowed for 20 of the 58 math questions—a calculator section and a no calculator section, while the ACT allows the use of calculators for the entire math test.
Determiner: If you prefer using a calculator for every type of problem, then choose the ACT.
3. Are you familiar with scientific terminology? The ACT science section uses a lot of scientific terminology, whereas the SAT does not have a science section. Here is a typical science question on the ACT:
You can answer the science question without knowing what all of the terms mean because all of the information for determining the answers are given in the charts and diagrams; however, familiarity with the terminology will speed up the process.
Determiner: Comfort with using scientific data to determine outcomes will give you a greater advantage on the ACT.
4. Can you remember where the details are in reading passages? Both tests give you long reading passages with lots of details, but the SAT tells you on what line to find the information, or even if they don’t, the questions proceed in chronological order through the passage, whereas the ACT does not. The ACT leaves you to search through the passage for the information.
Determiner: If you can remember where the details are in a reading passage, you will have an advantage on the ACT.
5. How easily can you cite evidence for your answers? One of the recent changes to the SAT is the addition of a follow-up question in the reading section that requires students to cite evidence for the previous question. Here is an example:
As you can imagine, these questions require a higher level of thinking, and if you’re stuck on the first question, then you’re sunk on this evidence citing question.
Determiner: If you’re not familiar with finding evidence to support your answer, then the new SAT reading section will be especially challenging.
6. Are you better at grammar and punctuation or sentence structure and “main idea” questions? Both the ACT and SAT Writing sections (not the handwritten essay but the section where you fill in bubbles) use passage-based questions (this is new for SAT), but the ACT focuses a bit more on grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure, plus some “main idea” questions. The SAT, on the other hand, focuses more on writing style, theme, and choosing the most appropriate word, resulting in more focus on vocabulary.
Determiner: If grammar and punctuation are your strengths, then choose the ACT; if writing style and vocabulary are your strengths, then choose the SAT.
7. Does time pressure shut you down? Some feel that the SAT gives you a tad more time to think through problems, while the ACT makes you push through at a faster pace.
Determiner: If time pressures make you go into brain stem mode, the SAT may be the better choice.
The final determiner for which test to take is to take a practice test for each and see how the scores compare.
My job is to help her break down her goals into doable pieces.
Me: Since you weren’t able to manage your morning on your own, I will take over your time management for the rest of the week [Good thing it’s still Monday!].
Teen: That’s not fair! I shouldn’t be punished for not being able to find my math book!
Me: It’s not punishment. I’m helping you achieve your academic goals this week so next week you will be able to handle your own schedule [hopefully].
Teen: Okay, whatever…
Me: Now set a goal for what you want to accomplish in the next twenty minutes.
Teen: Get my math done.
Me: Hmm, that’s a bit steep. How about if you find your math book in the next twenty minute? I’ll help.
Once the math book has been found, it’s time to set the next goal.
Me: Now set a goal for what you want to accomplish in the next twenty minutes.
Teen: Get my math done.
Me: Hmm, that’s a bit steep. How about if you set up your desk to do math and read the chapter? I will check back with you in twenty minutes.
Twenty minutes later, the teen is finished reading her math and she has her math notebook and pencil ready! Great accomplishment!
Me: You are right on track. Nicely done. Now set a goal for what you want to accomplish in the next twenty minutes.
Teen: Get my math done.
Me: Hmm, that’s a bit steep. How about if you finish half of your problems and then plan on taking a ten minute break to check your texts and get some water?
This process will continue for the rest of the week with the goal of seeing the teen begin to break down her goals into smaller, achievable 20-minute chunks. Keep in mind that after forty minutes, most teens will perform better if they have some kind of a break from their work. Movement, water, and social contact (often virtual) are what we use.
Other tips for helping teens with time management issues:
Michelle Billman homeschooled her four children for 22 years and is passionate about seeing students launched into college majors and careers that fit their strengths and interests.