I cannot recommend the Right Start Math Games highly enough! This is an easy to read guide of games that use cards. While some of the directions were hard for me to follow at first, once we got into gameplay it was very simple, probably because I am a visual and kinesthetic learner.
My daughters, who I have been homeschooling for four years do not like math. They absolutely, totally, thoroughly, and completely detest math. That is my fault. My homeschooling aspirations and goals were ridiculously high in our first few years. I could say that between my youngest two children, math has been what may have broken me on any bad day we have had.
Here is what we reviewed:
I recommend this for starting if you have none of the materials. It is a great deal and includes all of the pieces you need to get playing right away. BONUS: Pre-recorded webinars and Math Card games videos on the website!
Time, Money & Math
When I talked to a Right Start representative at a conference, I felt encouraged that I could do this, and then I realized the investment. Not just financial, but time. This is what I had none of. But our family was in desperate need of some math healing so that my kids could navigate and master the math that is all around them! Also, my sweet 10 year old, the one diagnosed with some learning challenges needed some math success! My 12-year-old is pretty much on track academically but was often frustrated by her own ability (or lack thereof).
I received the Right Start box full of manipulatives, and let my kids dive in! They immediately pulled out the different pieces and parts. They found some more interesting than others. One child pulls out a bag of brightly colored squares, “What do we use this for mom?” Another child picks up the abacus “What is this thing. An instrument? How does this work?” Then they pull out a back full of stacks of cards, “Is this a game? Mom, will you play a game with me?”
The Right Start Math Game Book is a great start for any family. In fact, even if you don’t use the full curriculum, you should get this book! The games are fun! We recently packed a few games to take camping and I told my daughter to grab the cards. She packed all of the Right Start cards we had; she thinks they are fun enough to take on vacation! I read in the introduction that 10-15 minutes of a game is the same as a worksheet! My daughters love these card games, especially the games with the corner cards.
Level D Starter Kit
Level D Book Bundle
If you are not a current user of Right Start you will need to add the math set which is a complete set of manipulatives and a one-time purchase. Enter Level D. I love that the levels are given letters, not numbers. Right there, we have confidence. Her book doesn’t say third grade it says level D. It may seem like a small thing, but as any mom knows, those little things can really mean A LOT!
Also, it is not an overwhelming page of math problems. There are activities for teaching and an explanation of why you are doing that activity. It doesn’t matter if your child is new to the curriculum. It goes through a review in the first 11 lessons. These may take a long time and you may need to step back a level, at least to really hit the concepts your child is struggling with. Conversely, your student may fly right through the lessons! No matter the outcome you are being set up to move your child forward successfully.
You want the lessons to be challenging, but not hard. Both you and your child should walk away with an understanding of the lesson. If not, play more games before you move on. The joy of homeschooling your child is meeting them where they are at. If you are completely new to Right Start Math, the reviews are as much for you as for your child. You will learn a little about how to use the manipulatives, some tricky vocabulary, and you may realize you are more than a little rusty on your mental math. This program sets you up for successful teaching.
There are activities online that you can view to help you get a grasp of this as well. With any new curriculum, you will need to invest a little of your time in getting comfortable with it. I can certainly say that I felt this one was worth the time especially with the growth and confidence I saw in my daughter.
We are still working on this level, but the foundation is definitely being built. Her number sense has improved beyond what I ever expected. My daughter loves challenging me on the games, and when I mess up and she corrects me! It is empowering. I am not messing up intentionally at all, she is becoming a much quicker thinker than I am.
I went into this level with my 6th grader. If you aren’t sure which level to start with, have your student take the free placement test available with Right Start. I was initially thinking it would really just be a stress-free time together and her chance to show me what she knew and understood. I found that while she knows formulas very well, she doesn’t understand “the why” to many formulas.
We started with the review, and that went pretty well, but then we got really excited by the other lessons looking ahead. We are still working through it, but I anticipate continuing into level F when we are finished. We haven’t done all of the worksheets, because once she has mastery of a concept, we just move on.
This level while “easy” for my daughter, is so much more concrete. There was a lot of guessing going on before she was able to see how the pieces fit. The manipulatives lead to a deeper, bigger understanding. A fun lesson -14: One to the millions. Even my 14-year-old had never really visualized what that would look like in the context of cubes…who am I kidding? I hadn’t truly visualized it!
This program sets your child up very well with a great foundation. It leads to fewer mistakes and much more enjoyment and success; it is truly a fun program. So many things are even clicking better for me than they ever did. While there are worksheets for many of the lessons, I love the math journal that is included. This helps your child own the material better than they could with textbook. It also prompts you to ask a question at the end to see what the child has learned. In my home, we have begun asking, “when,” and, “how will you use this?” It is actually amazing what the kids will come up with.
- Online Support: No matter what kind of learner you are, you can learn how to teach this program to your child. You can use the guide they give you or you can go online to watch the webinars available. In fact, the webinars are available for anyone to watch. Take a peek!
- Teacher Intensive: I was worried about the amount of time I had available to do this with my children. Then I realized very quickly that I didn’t have the time not to take the time. With any task, skill, or new information you are going to teach your children, it is so important to teach it well. If you don’t what happens? You get frustrated. They get frustrated. You halfway re-teach…because you already did it once. You send them off, they get frustrated, you get frustrated. The cycle begins. Instead, teach your child well, which means having the right tools yourself. I decided I didn’t have the time not to give this the time.
- FUN: Right Start Math made math fun!
- Preparation Time: can be tricky and time-consuming. I felt like I didn’t know how to teach my child math at all. Some of these exercises and activities seemed pointless, and then some seemed so hard. Guess what, struggling a bit through it with my child was humbling. I didn’t like that little bit of frustration, however, the reward when we got it was so empowering!
- Teacher Intensive: I can understand how this could be a tricky curriculum for a family with lots of children on different levels. There are definitely ways to work around but it will take some thought.
- Cost: It felt pricey to me. The manipulatives did anyway. After I really evaluated though, I decided it is very cost-effective. It almost seemed overly simple to me.
- Not enough Work: This program felt like play and not work so I was planning on “filling in” with worksheets. NO NEED! What I needed was a shift in thinking!
And if you are looking for guidance for your student from a teacher who is not you, take a look at the True North Homeschool Academy Math Games I, Math Games II, and Math Games III. These programs utilize the Right Start Math Curriculum and the games that are mentioned here to build a strong foundation for those who are struggling or who just need more practice. For a limited time, take 10% off all math classes (K-12) on our website – use code TNMA10 at checkout until August 3, 2020.
Right Start Math gave me the paradigm shift I needed for my child’s Math Success!
Rebecca Lundgren lives in South Dakota with her husband Jeremy, three daughters, and their zoo of adopted animals. While her family never intended to homeschool, she has learned a lot along the way.
Her background includes a B.S. degree in Early Childhood Education and Special Education from South Dakota State University. Before she began her homeschool journey, she taught in Public Schools k-12, English as a Second Language (ESL) k-6, and directed an Early Childhood program. Since she began homeschooling, she has been involved with working in and then directing homeschooling groups in her area and now teaches ESL online. She loves camping and hiking with her family, reading, crafting, and children’s ministries.
Rebecca will be teaching Jr High Science, World Geography, and Logic with True North Homeschool Academy.
It’s National Poetry Month! I just happen to love poetry and have been writing it and reading it for a long time. I’ve also taught it over the years to students in my Creative Writing, Lit & Comp and Poetry classes. Poetry is word art and if you are going to study writing, you must, in my opinion, study poetry!
- Firstly, it’s a great way for even very young children to learn the rhythm and cadence of good writing.
- Secondly, if you have your kids memorize poetry, they commit beautiful words and word pictures to memory to draw on later as they learn to write. You are giving your kids a jump start on great writing styles.
- Thirdly, as every professional artist knows, real talent at art takes dedication and commitment to learning the forms; in other words, discipline and adherence to traditional structures and styles of each type of creative expression. For a dancer, these would be the 7 movements, for musicians, the scales, for writers, excellent sentence structure and the ability to turn a phrase. Learning the basics well, memorizing them so that they are second nature allows one to play and create in new and expressive ways. The true artist takes what has been and turns it on its head. For the musician that means practicing scales. And for the writer, learning traditional poetry is like practicing scales.
What is Poetry?
Simply put, poetry is a combination of rhythm and imagery. It is the use of forms, meter and rhyme to create memorable word pictures. Don’t all of us have a fanciful picture in our heads of Jack Sprat who ate no fat and his wife who ate no lean? Or a regal thought about the official-looking King’s men whose best efforts did not put Humpty Dumpty together again?
Poetry, by its very nature, makes an excellent mnemonic, as evidenced by our ability to recall rhymes and simple poems we learned early in life and haven’t heard for decades. This would explain why Shakespeare is so quotable, as he wrote primarily in Iambic Pentameter (a poetic form that uses 5 meters of |da-DUM| – interestingly enough, the same pattern in which our heart beats- |da-DUM| |da-DUM| |da-DUM|, etc.
Will my kids take poetry studies seriously? I would say a resounding, “Tomorrow and Today!” Young kids love the fun wordplay of simple rhymes and poems and take great joy in tropes such as awesome alluring alliterations and phosphorical rhetorical questions.
Once you empower them with forms and tropes they often reveal at the challenge of it, laugh uproariously at the ability to be ridiculous and shock even themselves at the profound appreciation they feel for simple things. Things that they can now fully express without embarrassment because the form demanded their full attention and in giving it they discovered they felt and thought deeply about important things.
Yes, I believe your students will take poetry seriously.
How to get started
- Memorize nursery rhymes and simple poems
- Memorize Shakespeare or Horatius at the Bridge
- Gather fellow homeschoolers for a recitation night
- Participate in Poetry Outloud
- Take True North Homeschool Academy’s Poetry Class and have an absolute blast learning and growing alongside fellow budding troubadour’s.
(The following post is a guest post from Nicole Henry, True North Homeschool Academy Junior High teacher.)
I cut my teaching teeth at a private, Christian school in inner-city Chicago.
I found the job posting on a lunch-hour visit to my alma mater, Moody Bible Institute, which happened to be just down the street from the receptionist job I was working at an architectural firm to put my husband through his last semester of undergrad. I hated that job, which was why I found myself staring at the “Teachers Wanted” flyer stabbed haphazardly into the tack-chewed bulletin board.
“Huh,” I thought to myself, “I could do that! I mean, how hard could it be?
Anything is better than being chained to a desk answering phones all day.” I had a theology degree. I had taken the one required class on Philosophy of Christian Education to graduate. True, I had slept through most of it, tucked comfortably away in the back corner of the lecture hall, but I’d passed, so that’s all that mattered, right?
My husband and I were very newly married and living in a cute little apartment in Wrigleyville at the time. He would happily bike to class and I would despairingly trudge to the “El” and sleep-sway with the rest of the commuters to our various low-end jobs. After getting to work the day after seeing the job posting, I took a minute and found the school’s location on the giant map of Chicago that had pins on it wherever the firm’s projects were located. There were no pins even close to it.
“Hey,” I asked the nearest architect squinting into his computer screen, “What’s this area like?” He got up and squinted at the map. “That’s the ghetto. Don’t go there.” While I studied the area, he sat back down without another word. I called the school that afternoon.
“Do you have a teaching degree and any teaching experience?” was, of course, the first question the principal asked.
“Uh, well, no. I mean, I’ve taught some Sunday school classes, but not much else.”
“How do you get along with Jr. High kids? We need an 8th-grade homeroom teacher, who can also teach 6th and 7th grade literature, and maybe some history.”
I couldn’t remember the last time I had even been in the same room with a Jr. High kid.
I had no idea how I “got along with them” and I was a theology geek, not a literature and history geek, though I did love to read science fiction and fantasy.
“Oh, yes! I’m sure I could do that!” I said.
“Great! When can you come in for an interview?”
I met the principal the next day after work. I took the “El” to the ghetto and prayed for protection. I didn’t die, which is always a good thing.
She hired me after 30 minutes.
“Ok, so you’ll be teaching 6th, 7th, and 8th-grade literature, 8th-grade American History, and 7th and 8th grade Bible. Ok?”
“American History?” I questioned.
“Yes, are you ok with that?” she asked.
“Well, I should remind you that I’m Canadian,” I said.
“Yes, but you said you had a work permit, correct?”
“Yes, I have a work permit, but I don’t know anything about American History,” I said.
“You will by the end of the year! Here’s the textbook!” she said cheerily as she handed it to me. “Oh, so just so you know, the salary is $14,000 per year and, unfortunately, we don’t offer any benefits. Is that ok with you?”
Apparently, it was, because before I knew it, I had given notice at the architectural firm, it was Back to School night, and I was throwing up in the bathroom because I was going to be meeting parents whose kids were only six years younger than I was. Parents who were expecting the 8th-grade teacher to prepare their kids for high school. Parents who were trusting me.
Only by God’s extraordinary grace (and, I’m convinced, His sense of humor), I pulled it off.
The night ended, and they were all still going to send their kids to school the next day. I think about it now, 25 years later, and it still amazes me. I didn’t know then that those parents were desperate. That some of those homes were so ravaged by drugs and gangs and death that the school stood like a beacon of hope and light in the chaos, and the teachers there, who were willing to work for a pittance with no benefits, were like saviors come to give life to their children. They would have taken anyone with a pulse.
From Day 1, it was crazy.
The kids were slouchy, grumpy, jaded, and hurting. I was a know-nothing white girl, just another teacher using the school as a stepping stone to better things – I’d be gone before they could blink.
“Miss Henry, you can’t wear those colors to school! You’re gonna get shot!” We had moved to the ghetto to be closer to the school. We were in the “neutral” territory between two gangs. I’ve never worn black with green again.
“Miss Henry, I didn’t get my homework done because the cops showed up at my house last night.”
“Miss Henry, I don’t know where that porn magazine come from, I swear!”
“Miss Henry, why we gotta learn Shakespeare? He’s dead! Dead! Dead! Dead! Dead!”
“Miss Henry, how come we don’t read nothin’ about Puerto Rico in this book? We’s a territory, right?”
“Miss Henry, try this chicken adobo. My abuela made it. It’s amazing!”
“Miss Henry, does God harden my heart like he hardened Pharaoh’s?”
“Miss Henry, what does it mean to ‘die to self’? That just sounds weird.”
“Miss Henry, you really gonna take us to DC? I ain’t even been to downtown Chicago!”
“Miss Henry, my brother got shot last night.”
“Miss Henry, my brother died.”
“Miss Henry, will you come to my brother’s funeral?”
I can’t count the number of times my heart broke for, and with those kids. But on the flip side, I can’t count the number of times I laughed with them, questioned with them (remember, I was only six years older than they were), and, surprisingly, ate with them – Puerto Ricans make delicious food!
It was never about what I was teaching them, although of course, that was important, it was about what God was teaching me, through them. That to teach most effectively, one must love the students and be invested in their souls.
Yes, I learned how to make lesson plans, and scope and sequences, and subject goals. I even found that I have a talent for writing curriculum that I still use today. I also learned to love American History – all history in fact – and classic literature. But when I left Chicago to teach 4th and 5th grade at an affluent classical school outside the Beltway in Washington, DC, I left part of me behind. Those Jr. High kids, with their ubiquitous snark and silliness, and unending questions, as well as their increasing cynicism and sadness, quickly found a tender spot in my heart that I didn’t even know was there.
It’s been many years since I first walked into that 8th-grade classroom, and many, many students have sat with me and learned, but those kids have never left my mind.
Some of them have been lost to me, swallowed up by the ravenous pit that is inner-city life, but some have sought me out on social media and we have connected again in a new way, though they insist they must still call me “Miss Henry”. Now their children are in school. Now they are meeting the terrified teacher on Back to School Night. Some of them even chose to be teachers. I’d like to hope that I had a small role to play in that decision.
Want to know more about Nicole Henry or maybe even sign-up for some of the courses that she pours her heart and soul into? Visit the True North Homeschool Academy blog today for more information!
Nicole Henry is the Executive Director of Invictus Classical Press, a start-up company whose mission is to create unique classical curriculum for use by private schools and homeschools. Nicole’s first passion is teaching the Bible, which dovetails nicely with her love of history, geography, art, and literature – she’s a humanities girl through and through!
When she’s not writing curriculum, homeschooling, running (or attempting to), and trying to keep her four kids fed, she can be found merrily reading through various books, listening to podcasts about all kinds of things, and teaching herself to draw. Nicole will be teaching 7th and 8th-grade History and 7th and 8th grade Bible this year at True North Homeschool Academy.
At True North Homeschool Academy, we are all about launching our kid successfully as young adults. Ideally, we like this launch to be with little to no debt, and in a way that equips them to succeed vocationally, as well as in life. One of the ways we are doing this is by providing CLEP prep classes.
What is CLEP?
CLEP is College level Exam Program. There are over 33 exams available that are accepted by 2900 colleges and universities in the following areas:
- Literature & Composition
- World Languages
- History & Social Science
- Science & Mathematics
By taking a CLEP test, you can save “Hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars.” CLEP exams have been in existence for over 50 years and had over 1800 test centers. This program allows students to demonstrate mastery in college-level material and earn college credit through testing. There is no minimum age at which your kids can start taking CLEP exams and your test scores will “bank” for up to ten years!
Not every college accepts every CLEP exam, and if you know where your high school student plans to attend college, you can check with their admissions counselor or website. If it’s not stated on the website, and you are assured by someone on staff or faculty that the CLEP exam will be accepted for credit, get that in writing. In my state, the state college system will take up to 10 CLEP exams toward a degree, but it varies by major and school.
If you are interested in taking some CLEPs as upper-level high school courses, I would suggest starting with some basic general education requirements: College Algebra, English Comp I and II, Environmental or Natural Science, Psychology or World Religions or Government. Taking just 5 Clep exams totals 15 College Credits (and can go on a High School Transcript for one credit as well and can be counted for a higher weight, which affects the G.P.A.) which is an entire semester’s worth of college. Considering that even inexpensive school cost around $20,000 a year, half of that is significant savings!
If you are looking to earn you Associates degree or even entire undergraduate degree through Clepping, Dual Enrollment, and other less conventional methods, be sure to check out the “Big Three”; Thomas Edison State College, Excelsior State College, and Charter Oak State College. All of these consider life experiences, extensive CLEP exams, and dual enrollment creidts towards an Associate of Arts or a Bachelor’s Degree.
We have a friend who got their entire undergraduate degree in two years through Clepping and then went on to Medical School. Of course, he had terrific MCAT scores and references along with his degree, but it is doable to take an unconventionally earned Bachelor’s degree and go on to a competitive graduate program.
True North Homeschools Academy is committed to utilizing the freedom and unique opportunities we have as homeschoolers to bring classes to you that prepare your students to take CLEP exam.
This fall, for instance, we have an amazing group of young adults (10th-12th graders) meeting weekly for 90 minutes to study Psychology. This class has been challenging and thought-provoking, required a boatload of homework, reading, studying and learning vocabulary, provided great discussions and some good laughs and readied participants to take the CLEP exam at the end of the semester.
This class is offered for one semester (just like a college class would be) and uses Zoom and Moodle (also, like many college classes) and counts for 1 High School Credit. If the CLEP exam is taken and passed 3 College Credits under the General Education requirement of Social Science will be earned. Not only are our students receiving college credit for pennies on the dollar but they are avoiding the social indoctrination that is so prevalent on College campuses, especially in the area of Social Sciences.
Why pay for these classes when our kids can study and take a CLEP test on their own?
For the simple reason, that upper-level classes are challenging, and difficult things are often more exciting and enjoyable when done with others (Ecc 4:9), the teacher brings their experience and expertise to bear, and the kids have incentive to keep going even when the going gets tough!
If CLEP tests are not something you’ve considered before, I hope you take a look at them. We’d love to partner with you to guide your student through some fun and challenging High School classes that also prepare your students well for CLEP exams!
(This spring we will be offering Civics as well as Environmental Science– both count towards one credit of High School and are also CLEP prep classes. Check those out today!)
We all know that homeschooling is fantastic right? I mean, we can tailor our children’s education to their specific needs. There’s also plenty of time to be spent together, meaning that we can build deep and lasting bonds with our children. However, if we are honest, there can be some downsides. Group projects are hard to come by, and sometimes it’s hard to instill a sense of deadlines and responsibilities that come with a group school setting. So what’s the remedy? Live homeschool classes of course! See five reasons why we love live homeschool classes.
(So what if you are ALL for live homeschool classes but there are none offered near you? True North Homeschool Academy has a solution for that too! Keep reading.)
The first reason to love live homeschool classes is the fellowship.
This is often an overlooked aspect of live online classes and one of the big differences between live and self-paced or pre-recorded classes. At True North Homeschool Academy our students can see and hear the teacher and each other. They know each other’s names and even work in small groups in our zoom break-out rooms.
They have a sense of community and fellowship with classmates in a controlled, adult-directed setting. A setting that is geared toward academic growth, and based on Judeo-Christian values. For instance, in our Writing Club, the kids regularly send each other their writing outside of class for critique and evaluation. Kids are meeting and growing in relationships with teachers and students around the country — and outside of it!
Another great reason to love live homeschool classes is that they provide accountability.
Live online classes require that your student shows up ready and prepared at regularly appointed times. Given assignments have deadlines and our teachers provide a rubrics and standards of expectations. Students learn to understand the importance of a Syllabus, how to use it, and how to negotiate if they can’t meet deadlines.
The Goldilocks Principle makes another case for live homeschool classes.
The Goldilocks Principle is an often overlooked and powerful principal! This principle simply means that people yearn for novelty and new challenges. Kids want to be pushed to explore and expand beyond what they know in a way that allows them to excel- not too easy, not too difficult, just right. Live, online learning can help you achieve that sweet spot.
At True North Homeschool Academy, our teachers have taught in a variety of classroom settings for a long time. They understand how to personalize the material. This personalization means that students who are struggling can continue to grow and excel, while students that are ready for more significant challenges can take off and fly fast. Our classes are personalized and prepared to accommodate students so that they can excel, regardless of their starting point.
Live homeschool classes can also help your students acclimate to someone else’s standards.
Let’s face it, as homeschooling mommas, sometimes we give our kids a lot of leeways. Maybe too much. If our kids don’t make our deadlines or perform up to our standards, they know we are still going to love them, and they probably will still “pass.” In fact, one of my daughter’s friends in college told her that she was “spoiled” because she got to learn to mastery- never having suffered through a failed test or deadline.
Having an external person to be accountable to can take a lot of pressure off of both parents and students. Our expectations are clearly stated at the beginning of each class and students know where to find the syllabus. Students receive regular feedback and assessments, and our teachers are available to talk with parents through each course. Instructors also give semester and year-end grades, along with a Certificate of Achievement, upon course completion. Because class standards and expectations are clearly stated ahead of time students get no surprises and can work towards stated expectations, knowing that they’ve accomplished along the way. Sometimes this falls by the wayside with busy homeschool parents.
Finally, live online classes can help your homeschool student become more tech savvy.
At True North Homeschool Academy, we utilize tech that your students will encounter in college, like Zoom Rooms and Moodle. Our teachers spend time allowing the kids to explore and use the tech we have at our disposal, such as electronic chats, hand raising, break-out rooms, and whiteboard capabilities. Students learn about email, how to submit homework electronically and how to interact with teachers who live in different time zones and perhaps in different countries. Students learn first hand about the valuable and beautiful connections tech provides. These tech skills will serve them well for life.
So now, what if you are convinced that live homeschool classes are something that you HAVE to have in your homeschool, but you are MILES from even the closest co-op? Well, True North Homeschool Academy has a solution for you! We offer live ONLINE homeschool courses. And we hate to brag, but they are kind of amazing. We have top-notch technology, amazing teachers, and a fantastic course line-up. Don’t just take our word for it, check it all out today in our course catalog!
For a Limited Time all courses are 10% off!!! Hurry and shop now, these prices won’t last forever!
Executive Functioning a big “buzzword” in education right now. If you have a child diagnosed with ADHD/ADD, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, Autism, Aspergers or a Learning Disability, you have probably come across the term Executive Functioning.
So, how does Executive Functioning affect your child? Have you seen any of the following?
- Easily frustrated – fights or quits tasks easily, melts down easily.
- Anxious – worries about things out of their control, or about making mistakes excessively.
- Worried or bothered by seemingly “little” things – could by physical things or academic things.
- Frustrated by sitting still – constantly on the move, needs to have hands/body moving
- Following directions is arduous labor – can follow one direction at a time (well, maybe sometimes?), may have difficulty with more than one direction at a time.
- Difficulty completing tasks – may start things and not finish, or gets frustrated and stops rather than ask for help.
- Struggles with getting started in tasks – even seemingly simple assignments (or larger ones) are difficult to get started because they don’t know where to begin
- Strains to keep track of the processes of math and reading – forgets to go back to the passage to help find answers or reread, loses their place in a multi-step math problem or with long division/multiplication type processes.
- Easily bothered or distracted by light levels (high or low) or noise (too loud or too quiet) – textures, sounds, lights, cold, heat, blue skies, gray skies, dogs barking, someone says something unexpected – these and more distract and bother our kids at times.
- Flexibility is an issue; may struggle greatly with being able to “switch gears” when life demands it.
- Planning and prioritizing are difficult or impossible to the chagrin and frustration of the person.
- Working memory can be faulty and frustrating.
- Response inhibition (ability to control one’s own emotions) is a struggle or lost battle.
What is Executive Functioning?
The official definition from LDONLINE (LD Online) is: “The executive functions are a set of processes that all have to do with managing oneself and one’s resources in order to achieve a goal. It is an umbrella term for the neurologically-based skills involving mental control and self-regulation.” This means that a lot of the above behaviors that are sometimes considered “careless” and “willful” can be traced back to issues with Executive Functioning.
In the course description for True North Homeschool Academy’s Creating Priorities Class for Executive Functioning, I describe it as it looks at my house… Perhaps your child struggles with executive functioning skills, as mine does. When it is time to do his schoolwork, my son loses his pencil, loses his worksheet, will solve the problem with blocks but forget to write the answer, disappears, jumps up and runs around the house, find a million other things to do, and then will finally sit down, solve two questions, and then he’s off again…. My son, like many others, struggles with executive functioning skills. He doesn’t MEAN to be unorganized and distracted, but his brain just can’t help it. Like many people with a diagnosis, he also struggles with time management, self-control, memory and other cognitive issues; common for those whose brains are developing differently. As a family, we are working on many things to help him learn how to better manage his time and his work.
What can be done to enhance and teach Executive Functioning Skills?
You can focus on specific skills that may be lacking. For example –
- How to study – how to make outlines, study key terms, pay special attention to charts, summaries and footnotes, go over review questions
- Using a checklist – provide younger children with a checklist of tasks (you might have to begin with 1 at a time and slowly increase), have them check off tasks as they complete them. You can even work in breaks or “rewards” as tasks are completed.
- Using a planner – older students can utilize a planner with assignments for the day or week to be completed. To gain independence, allow students to complete the assignments in their own order. If needed, specify which tasks can be done on any day, and which must be done on specific days (if your child needs repetition in math, set the expectation that one math assignment must be completed each day instead of doing them all on a single day).
- Using graphic organizers for writing, or reading – graphic organizers are great tools for analyzing fiction and nonfiction literature, and for brainstorming and organizing writing assignments.
- Using anchor charts or a math notebook to show the steps needed to solve math problems – Math notebooks (classrooms usually also use anchor charts) are great tools to help students remember how to solve specific types of questions, and to follow step-by-step directions on more complicated math (like long division or multiplication)
- Create vocabulary or sight word flashcards – index cards create great flashcards to review sight words, vocabulary for any subject or to create your own math fact flashcards.
- Give choices (make sure all choices presented are acceptable to you) – A child who is easily frustrated or tends to “battle” you about schoolwork is sometimes feeling out of control of the situation. So they work to regain control by fighting against what they see is the source of the problem (you). When you provide choices, it helps them feel back in control. The catch is, you only present choices that are acceptable to you. If it is not acceptable, it is not a choice. If there is still an argument, write the choices down or draw pictures. You can’t argue with something that is written. If they continue to try to argue with you, you just point. Eventually, they will make a decision from the choices provided. (It might take a little while the first time, but it gets easier as you continue).
Where can you go for help?
There are a lot of resources out there to get help. Here are a few suggestions of things to consider: