Tag Archives: teaching writing

Math and Writing Curriculum Review, grade 5

I can NOT sleep. So I think I am going to write… Anyway, I wish it were because my mind was full of all kinds of helpful things, but alas, I just can’t sleep. So I am going to ramble a bit, and see what turns out. It seemed to work last time.

Our homeschool year has been turning out pretty well. We are sticking with Desk AppleSingapore math, only this year, I am beginning to think that I should have ordered the textbooks too. I have only ever ordered the workbooks and have always just explained things to Ian myself. This year, however, they seemed to have made a funny, almost random jump into algebra. Algebra with two variables, no less. For instance, here is one of his problems yesterday.

Lily and Sara each had an equal amount of money at first. After Lily spent $18 and Sara spent $25, Lily had twice as much as Sara. How much money did each have at first?

Now, I can only think of one way to solve this problem (well, two, by changing the definition of “y”): x – 18=2 (x – 25), where y equals x-25. Am I missing something? That is the way to solve it, right? Anyway, that’s all very well and good. I can explain it to my ten-year-old, and he can understand it. Well, he can follow it, and he thinks it’s ridiculously cool. “Ridiculous” being his word for it, lol. The only problem is, I don’t know if he is advanced enough to be able to think this way on his own. And we had to completely stop and talk about distributive property for a while. By that time, even though he was actually liking it, his brain was worn out, so we stopped. Today I am going to teach him how to keep equations balanced.

The biggest problem is, the Singapore math books made the jump from several pages of 8 * 6 + 14 and 7 * (13 – 6) – 19 (teaching the order of operations) to story problems like the one above. Makes me wonder what I’m missing when I don’t order the textbooks. Anyway, we’re going to keep plugging along at it, and I’m going to download some extra algebra homework to help it sink in. Because after yesterday and the day before, book 5A totally moves on to other topics, leaving algebra in the dust: long division, fractions, geometry, and ratios. I am still happy with my choice of math curriculum, but a little confused about the funny jump.

On a brighter note, his multiplication skills are improving in leaps and bounds this year. Whether that’s due to my spontaneous purchase of flashcards over the summer or whether his brain has just finally calmed down enough to let them sink in, I don’t know. We have always reviewed them aurally before now, so it might be that he is just more of a visual learner. But either way, this is definitely his year. 🙂

While we have been sticking with Singapore math since Kindergarten, we are trying something new for writing this year. I guess we never really had a curriculum just for writing before. It was always done in combination with his language arts. And he has always hated it in the past. And well, he still hates it, but he is doing so very well with this new curriculum, and I am hoping that it will begin to seem easy enough that he will hate it less and less. It is called Institute for Excellence in Writing, and it is expensive. However, I am beginning to think that it is the only writing curriculum he will ever need all the way through college. If that turns out to be the case, it will be relatively inexpensive. I bought the Student Writing Intensive Level A, and I really think that anyone could use it to teach writing to their kids, even if they aren’t strong writers themselves. Yes, it is that easy and methodical. That’s the thing. They’ve thought of a way to lay it out in a progressive, structured manner that is easy to follow and easy to grade. And I absolutely love it. In fact, after borrowing the teaching DVDs from a friend, and watching only the first one, I began to imagine ways that this curriculum could help me improve my own writing skills.

Let me give you an exercise that’s mentioned in the teaching video I watched. Take an excerpt from a piece of literature – prose or poetry, you choose – and make an outline that only includes the three most important words from each sentence. Now, put the original literature away and write your own composition based only on the words you copied. (Personally, I would wait a few days because of my photographic memory – It was always really hard for me not to plagiarize on accident.) Feel free to change the words if you wish, as long as the gist is the same. The idea is to actually try to improve upon the original. Not that the average person could improve Dickens, but if you did the same exercise for pages and pages, you might eventually word something better than he did, lol.

So in the first unit of the curriculum, students practice making key work outlines from short stories or paragraphs about animals. The next day, they write a paragraph based on the outlines they made. Simple way to begin, right? Then after that, they incrementally teach you ways to dress up your paragraph. I am really loving it, and Ian can do it easily enough. I also ordered a grammar book from them that I am liking.

Ok, for not having a clear direction when I began typing, I sure did talk alot! Well, hopefully this post will be helpful to some of you homeschoolers out there. And I would recommend the Institute for Excellence in Writing to absolutely anyone of any age who ever has to write, homeschooled or not.


Creative Writing with Newspapers

I love creative writing prompts. For the last ten years or so, I have been trying to hone my writing skills in preparation for “becoming a writer.” I already write plenty of nonfiction, but I’m very intersted in writing Christian fiction someday, as well. I love reading books about writing, but the only way a person can really improve their craft is by just doing it. The usual way that I have practiced is through creative writing prompts. They’re great fun, they really get your mind rolling, and they just may spark an idea that will grow into something bigger. Today’s prompt is mainly for writers who already have a story simmering in the back of their mind, or maybe they are in the middle of a work in progress (WIP). I hope you enjoy it; here it is!

News happens to everybody. Sometimes expected, sometimes not, sometimes ironic, sometimes tragic. Pick up today’s newspaper and read the headlines. Think of a way to make one of them affect the protagonist of your WIP. It might just open up new possibilities for a faltering story.

Creative Writing Assignment for Pairs

I realized that it’s been a long time since I posted a creative writing prompt. Our co-op isn’t meeting for classes anymore; it sort of fizzled out when school started up. Everyone’s too busy. As a result, I haven’t been creating any more writing exercises. Something I’ll have to remedy because I really like doing it! Here’s a quick one that our class never tried. Let me know how it goes!


Pair up. What is your favorite book or story (could be a movie or video game storyline)? What do you like about it?

Who is your favorite character? Why do you like that character?

Exchange information with your partner and write: what happens when your favorite character visits the world of your partner’s
favorite character?

Homeschoolers can use this by placing their characters in the world of their mom’s favorite character or that of a sibling. Alternatively, they could try switching other elements, such as plot, villains, best friends, etc. This is a good “what if” exercise for reluctant writers. It allows them to just be silly and have fun!