Why Singapore Math Works Best for Us


Why Singapore Math Works for Us: Answering Commonly Asked Questions about the Homeschool Math Curriculum (by Gina @ Oaxacaborn)

This time of year marks the halfway point in our academic calendar, and it’s when I take stock of our curriculum and educational plan, making changes based on what’s working and what isn’t. Since I’m planning for a sensitive, headstrong , sensory-seeking, asynchronous six-year-old who taught herself to write at age two, and who currently reads and comprehends well beyond middle school level, I’m always, always, adjusting. Not pushing, but adjusting; adjusting, and following her lead. Just because I love a book or a method, doesn’t mean it will be the best choice for her. And many times, I’ve purchased curricula in advance, only to find that she’d already outgrown the content by the time I planned to use it. Flexibility is key.

But no matter how objective I am about what’s working and what’s not, I can honestly say that Singapore Math always makes the cut. I receive messages nearly every week from inquisitive parents who wish to test the Singapore waters, but are apprehensive for one reason or another. In fact, I’d venture to say that of all the curriculum we use, Singapore Math piques the largest amount of curiosity — and is victim to the largest amount of misinformation.

Here are the questions I am asked most often.

Why Singapore Math Works for Us: Answering Commonly Asked Questions about the Homeschool Math Curriculum (by Gina @ Oaxacaborn)

Why Singapore Math Works for Us: Answering Commonly Asked Questions about the Homeschool Math Curriculum (by Gina @ Oaxacaborn)

Why Singapore Math, in particular?

The approach Singapore takes in teaching math concepts is more in line with the type of mathematics instruction students receive in the non-US countries where math scores are higher than US student math scores.  The plain truth is that the way mathematics and arithmetic have been taught in the United States for years hasn’t actually worked out that well. Each of us, of course, has had a different educational experience, and while some personally feel their math educational suited them well, I hear over and over from people who feel rather strongly about having been insufficiently equipped by American math instruction. In either case, the rankings don’t lie. [1] The most recent (2015) global rankings of students across the seventy-two countries reveal that in math, American students rank 35th out of 72. Thirty-fifth! That’s far below even the global average, and is sadly even worse then the 2012 results (28th out of 72). Vietnam, Lithuania, Malta, and Latvia — just to name  a few — are all doing a better job teaching math than the United States. Do you know which country ranks first in math scores? That’s right, Singapore.

Why Singapore Math Works for Us: Answering Commonly Asked Questions about the Homeschool Math Curriculum (by Gina @ Oaxacaborn)

“But it’s not the way I was taught!” or, “I’m not any good at math!”

Based on the global math scores quoted above, I’d venture to say that “the way it’s always been done” might actually be doing American students a disservice.  This is not meant to be a controversial statement. When global test scores in math clearly show American students lagging behind their same-age peers, the data suggests room for improvement. A recent report from the National Numeracy organization in the United Kingdom asserts the following:

“Negative attitudes, rather than a lack of innate talent, are at the root of our numeracy crisis. In order for people individually – and the country as a whole – to improve and in turn benefit from raised levels of numeracy, our attitudes have to change. It is culturally acceptable in the UK to be negative about maths, in a way that we don’t talk about other life skills. We hear ‘I can’t do maths’ so often it doesn’t seem a strange thing to say (Kowsun, 2008). Maths is seen as the remit of ‘mad scientists’, ‘nerdy’ boys, and the socially inept (Epstein et al, 2010). We talk about maths as though it is a genetic gift possessed only by a rare few, and inaccessible to the general public.” [2]

When we look at mathematics and arithmetic as subjects only some people have the capacity to understand, we do everyone a disservice. I’m often equally fascinated and disheartened by the muscle thrown behind pre-literacy efforts, while any similar push for pre-numeracy skills is seen as hothousing, or rejected as developmentally inappropriate. We simply don’t have the same kind of reverence for opening up the world of 123s as we do for opening up the world of ABCs. Maybe, just maybe, we’re conditioning our kids early to feel like math is inapproachable, difficult, and “only for math people”.

Why Singapore Math Works for Us: Answering Commonly Asked Questions about the Homeschool Math Curriculum (by Gina @ Oaxacaborn)

Why Singapore Math Works for Us: Answering Commonly Asked Questions about the Homeschool Math Curriculum (by Gina @ Oaxacaborn)

Can you achieve the same results as students in Singapore, just with the Singapore Math curriculum?

This is a big question to tackle. I suggest the answer lies in cultural attitudes toward mathematics and arithmetic. (Mathematics and arithmetic are not the same thing, by the way. According to the Oxford Dictionary, the term “mathematics” refers to “the branch of science concerned with number, quantity, and space” , while “arithmetic” is “the use of numbers in counting and calculation”.)

In the West we tend — not as an absolute, but as a tendency — to view a math brain as something you either have, or you don’t. Not so in Singapore. Cambridge Assessment’s Director of Research is quoted in the Financial Times as saying, “It [Singapore’s approach to math] is a different approach to ability — really, a major overhaul of the way in which children are viewed…A switch from an ability-based model of individualized learning, to a model [which says that] all children are capable of anything, depending on how it is presented to them and the effort which they put into learning it.” (emphasis mine) [3]

Why Singapore Math Works for Us: Answering Commonly Asked Questions about the Homeschool Math Curriculum (by Gina @ Oaxacaborn)

Is Singapore Math is only suited for kids who are good in math?

Certainly there are different learning styles and different personalities. But, to unilaterally say that the Singapore math methodology is only good for “kids who are already good in math”, is to ignore not only the very real difference in cultural attitudes toward math and beliefs about children’s math ability, but also the fundamental differences between typical math instruction in the United States and typical math instruction in Singapore.

Why Singapore Math Works for Us: Answering Commonly Asked Questions about the Homeschool Math Curriculum (by Gina @ Oaxacaborn)

Why Singapore Math Works for Us: Answering Commonly Asked Questions about the Homeschool Math Curriculum (by Gina @ Oaxacaborn)

What makes Singapore Math different? Is the Home Instructor’s Guide really necessary?

Yes. The Home Instructor’s Guide contains the bulk of the Singapore Math program. Beginning with Level 1A, it would be difficult to teach the program in a truly Singapore-method way without it. In fact, if I were to assemble a Singapore Math curriculum on a tight budget, I would omit the textbook before I ever omitted the Home Instructor’s Guide. The fact is, without the strategies in the Home Instructor’s Guide, you will inevitably teach math the same way you learned. The Home Instructor’s Guide gives you easy-to-understand, practical, and usable access to the “concrete, pictorial, abstract” method. This is necessary not because elementary math is hard, but because this is the method which sets Singapore Math apart from other math programs.

Unless you happen to have prior experience teaching the Singapore Math method, I do not believe the student workbook and textbook by themselves are adequate to teach the Singapore method.

The Home Instructor’s Guide contains games, tips, and suggestions to explain abstract concepts in concrete ways. Singapore Math never expects the student to simply accept a math rule and begin carrying it out, without a logical buildup and explanation. I have sometimes heard detractors of this program argue that Singapore Math students will end up deficient in math facts, because of the program’s focus on the why and how behind mathematical concepts. In actuality, students end up  proficient in both arithmetic (calculations) and mathematics (theory), because Singapore Math understands that these two go hand in hand. For each kind of math problem or concept, the Home Instructor’s Guide teaches several strategies and approaches. I especially like this, since different approaches will be hits for different kids at different times. And by being exposed to several ways to tackle each kind of problem, the student gains a deeper understanding of each problem, and learns how to solve problems most efficiently. This means that when a student is working through pages of math facts in the workbook, he or she is not just rewriting memorized facts, but is actually practicing mathematical thinking and learning how to employ different problem-solving strategies. And the fascinating thing I’ve observed is that through working this way, the student memorizes math facts without even realizing it.

In beginning addition instruction, for example, the student is required to memorize facts through 20. Rather than being given a stack of flash cards and timed tests, the student is instead given physical objects to sort and count. As the student is engaging in tactile ways through moving counters/manipulative, the student is being taught strategies, such as memorizing doubles (this allows him/her to know all doubles and all doubles plus one), counting up by 1, 2 or 3, and training his/her brain to spot the combination of numbers equaling ten in any given set of numbers. When a student becomes stuck, he or she is prompted to count up, look for doubles, or look for a ten.

If a student still hasn’t grasped memorization at the end of this process, the Home Instructor’s Guide encourages the student to pause and work through mental math exercises, provided in the back of the guide, before moving on to the next unit. But for the most part, as the student goes through this process — progressing through the concrete, pictorial, and abstract stages — the student finds he/she is suddenly capable of doing addition entirely mentally! Mental arithmetic ability is achieved through building a thorough understanding of mathematics.

Each step in Singapore Math methodology truly builds on the previous step. Yet, without a big picture perspective of what this approach is trying to accomplish, detractors often look at just these strategies and argue that this sort of math is adding too many steps and doesn’t have enough memorization. But when the program is taken as a whole — Home Instructor’s Guide, textbook, and workbook — students gain a rich understanding of mathematical reasoning while at the same time engaging in problem solving, and committing math facts to memory. Each time I happen to question why a certain strategy is presented in the curriculum, a few more pages or chapters later I see exactly why the concept was tackled in that way.  It all ends up fitting together. And the curriculum never leaves you guessing how deeply you should cover a concept before moving on, because the Home Instructor’s Guide gives helpful insight along the lines of “this concept will be covered in detail later; this is just an introduction”, or, “stop now and review these facts, as the student will need to know this for the next concept.”

I wholeheartedly endorse the Home Instructor’s Guide as a means to implement the Singapore Math method.

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Is Singapore Math spiral or mastery?

Whenever this question is posted on discussion boards, it seems about half the people argue that it’s spiral, and the other half argue that it’s mastery. Actually, Singapore math is neither spiral nor mastery. According to the publishers themselves, “The Singapore Math® curriculum does not conform strictly to any of the above approaches. The strong point of Primary Mathematics is its clear and multi-pronged presentation of concepts. There is an effective mix of drill, word problems and mental calculation instruction connected to all important concepts.” [4]

In the sections of the curriculum which learn toward mastery, users of only the workbook and textbook might think there is not enough substance to adequately master the material. However, users of the Home Instructor’s Guide will see that for each simple-looking problem in the student books, there is a wealth of teaching in the Home Instructor’s Guide on the mathematical reasoning, problem solving, and abstract thought behind each type of problem, as explained above.

Why Singapore Math Works for Us: Answering Commonly Asked Questions about the Homeschool Math Curriculum (by Gina @ Oaxacaborn)

Is Singapore Math Common Core?

Yes, and no. There are three different, separate versions of Singapore Math [2], and each is very clearly named: the U.S. Edition, the Standards Edition, and the Common Core Edition. Only the Common Core version is aligned to Common Core standards.

Why Singapore Math Works for Us: Answering Commonly Asked Questions about the Homeschool Math Curriculum (by Gina @ Oaxacaborn)

Which edition of Singapore Math is best?

Generally, when people refer to “Singapore Math”, they mean “Primary Mathematics” from publisher Marshall Cavendish. Throughout this post, this is what I mean, as well. There are other publishers who use the term “Singapore Math” as well, such as the Frank Schaffer practice books often spotted at Costco, but those aren’t the same as the original Singapore Math Primary Mathematics curriculum discussed in this post.

If you’re sold on the Singapore Math methodology, you can’t go wrong with any Singapore Math edition from Marshall Cavendish –the U.S. Edition, the Standards Edition, or the Common Core Edition. (Obviously, if you have strong feelings about the Common Core edition of Primary Math aligning with Common Core standards, you’ll want to avoid that one.)

We use the Standards Edition. All the textbooks are full-color, unlike the U.S. Edition (not a deal breaker, but a really nice perk if you happen to have a very young math aficionado.) And in my opinion, the Standards Edition it has the very best, most thorough teacher’s component. This chart from Marshall Cavendish explains the differences between the U.S. Edition, the Standards Edition, and the Common Core Edition of Singapore Math.

Why Singapore Math Works for Us: Answering Commonly Asked Questions about the Homeschool Math Curriculum (by Gina @ Oaxacaborn)

There are so many books for each level of Primary Mathematics. Which ones do I need?

For a complete Primary Mathematics curriculum, you’ll need the Home Instructor’s Guide, textbook, workbook, and Mathlink cubes. One full year of math instruction will require a minimum of six books: A and B level Home Instructor’s Guide, A and B level textbook and A and B level workbook. The Home Instructor’s Guide serves as the planner and teaching guide for each lesson, after which the student is assigned a few workbook pages and a few textbook pages. Because Singapore is neither spiral nor mastery but a combination of the two, there actually aren’t that many problems assigned each day, so textbook and workbook together isn’t an overload of material. We do not currently do the separate supplementary Singapore Math practice books containing challenging word problems, tests, or intensive practice at this point, although they are available. At the end of the post, I list the additional math resources we currently utilize.

(For kindergarten, all you really need are Earlybird Kindergarten Textbooks A and B. More on that below.)

Why Singapore Math Works for Us: Answering Commonly Asked Questions about the Homeschool Math Curriculum (by Gina @ Oaxacaborn)

What are the grade equivalents to Singapore levels?

Before Singapore Math redid their website, they used to have a section stating that Singapore level B of one grade is equivalent to the first semester of the following grade (1B and 2A make up a typical second grade year, 2B and 3A are equivalent to third grade from another publisher, and so on). Once the website was revamped, that page disappeared. Now, the homeschooling planning section links to Singapore Math assessment/placement tests, and advise students start with an assessment two grade levels below their current math level.

What about middle school and high school (secondary-level) Singapore Math?

Primary Mathematics is available through Level 6B, then secondary-level Singapore math curriculum is available for levels 6, 7, and 8. (Why don’t the Singapore math levels and United States grade-level equivalents line up exactly?)

It is worthwhile to note that New Elementary Mathematics version (available in levels 7-8 or 1-2) is considered by the publishers themselves to be more rigorous than the Dimensions Math edition (available in levels 6-8). However, according to the Singapore Math website,  “A student who has completed either of these should be prepared for second year algebra or geometry at the high school level.  An advanced homeschooled student could potentially do a college level intermediate algebra or pre-calculus text.” [5]

Why Singapore Math Works for Us: Answering Commonly Asked Questions about the Homeschool Math Curriculum (by Gina @ Oaxacaborn)

Why Singapore Math Works for Us: Answering Commonly Asked Questions about the Homeschool Math Curriculum (by Gina @ Oaxacaborn)

What books do you recommend if I want to begin Singapore Math in preschool or kindergarten?

We used — and loved — Earlybird Kindergarten Math, Standards Edition. For both the A and B levels, a Teacher’s Guide, textbook, and activity book is available, as well as additional storybook readers. While I’m a huge proponent of the Home Instructor’s Guides for Primary Mathematics 1A and up, I actually found that for Earlybird, just Textbook A and Textbook B themselves provided a fun and comprehensive kindergarten math education. Unlike the Primary Mathematics textbooks which contain no teacher’s segment, Earlybird textbooks do include separate teacher’s notes at the bottom of each page, which guide the parent through each lesson.

The first book, A, doesn’t deal as much with actual numerals as it does with mathematical reasoning, and learning to express why sets of items are “different from” or “similar to” each other. This emphasis on why, focus on pictorial representation, and lack of writing makes Earlybird A a thorough yet developmentally-appropriate first introduction to mathematics and critical thinking. I would say the curriculum could be undertaken as early as four years old — or even an older three-year-old in the case of a precocious child.

Since the program starts out slowly, some fail to see the need for Earlybird A. However, by the end of Earlybird B, though, the practical foundation laid by the seemingly slow exercises in Earlybird A become very clear. We did lots more than one page/day during the easy units, and slowed down a bit for the more challenging units. Earlybird A and B are a terrific foundation for Primary Mathematics.

The whole kindergarten course is extremely simple and open-and-go. For A, the only manipulatives I used were shapes cut out of construction paper, although wooden or plastic tangrams would have been more practical and durable. Once you begin Earlybird B, I would recommend purchasing some physical counters (like the recommended Mathlink cubes as manipulatives.  You’ll want to have counters anyway as you go on to 1A and beyond, as they are an integral part of the program.

Singapore Math suggests additional manipulatives as well, should you wish to invest in more hands-on math materials.

Why Singapore Math Works for Us: Answering Commonly Asked Questions about the Homeschool Math Curriculum (by Gina @ Oaxacaborn)

Besides Singapore, what other resources do you use for elementary math?

If you have additional questions, please leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer! [Edited to add: This is post is not in any way sponsored by Singapore Math or Marshall Cavendish. We just truly love this curriculum!]

This post has been linked to  iHomeschool Network’s Our Homeschool: What’s Working and What’s Not. Click the image below to read other #ihsnet bloggers’ mid-year curriculum reviews!

Why Singapore Math Works Best for Us: A Look Halfway Through the School Year

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BOOKS : 100+ Kid-Approved Books About Math


100+ Kid-Approved Books About Math from Gina @ the Oaxacaborn blog

100+ Kid-Approved Books About Math

Books about math? Yes! Math!

And did you know there is a math section at the library? Our library has entire shelves filled with colorful, humorous, engaging books about math. Each week, my daughter pulls my arm out of my socket dragging me to the math section. (Yes, we’re talking about my numbers-obsessed five-year-old, who constantly reminds me how upset she is that her math curriculum hasn’t covered pi and x,y graphing yet.)

Much of this list, actually, is her recommendation. (The “Math to Know” volume in the image above? We had to have it re-bound by Office Depot, because she wore the binding right out.) So this truly is a selection of kid-approved books. Every asterisk (*) after a title below indicates that she’s already read the book, and many of the ones without an asterisk are on her wish list/library list.

A few books, like Life of Fred and Beast Academy, didn’t make the list, mostly because they’re already so popular. Curriculum like the much-beloved Singapore Math isn’t here, either. And dozens more books didn’t make the list just out of the sheer finite nature of time (I am already planning a second list of 100 more kid-approved books about math. Wow. I never thought I would say those words).

So here we go! Let’s start with…

…Kid-Approved Picture Biographies About Mathematicians

1. The Man Who Made Time Travel by Kathryn Lasky*

2. The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos by Deborah Heiligman*

3. Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci by Joseph D’Agnese*

4. The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Kathryn Lasky*

5. What’s Your Angle, Pythagoras? by Julie Ellis*

6. Come See the Earth Turn by Lori Mortensen*

7.Galileo’s Leaning Tower Experiment by Wendy Macdonald*

8. Mathematicians Are People, Too: Stories from the Lives of Great Mathematicians by Luetta and Wilmer Reimer

9. Mathematicians Are People, Too: Stories from the Lives of Great Mathematicians, Volume 2 by Luetta and Wilmer Reimer

Kid-Approved Math Resource / Reference Books

10. G Is for Googol: A Math Alphabet Book by David M. Schwartz*

11. Everything You Need…To Know About Math Homework by Anne Zeman*

12. Math to Know*

13. 101 Things Everyone Should Know About Math by Marc Zev, Kevin Segal, and Nathan Levy*

14. The Illustrated Elementary Math Dictionary*

Kid-Approved Math Books About Programming

15. The Magic School Bus Gets Programmed by Nancy White*

16. How to Code in 10 Easy Lessons by Sean McManus*

17. How to Code: A Step-By-Step Guide to Computer Coding by Max Wainewright

18. Learn to Program (Kids Get Coding) by Heather Lyons

Kid-Approved Math Problem-Solving Books

19. Bedtime Math: A Fun Excuse to Stay Up Late by Laura Overdeck*

20. Bedtime Math: The Truth Comes Out by Laura Overdeck

21. Bedtime Math: This Time It’s Personal by Laura Overdeck

22. Bedtime Math 2: This Time It’s Personal by Laura Overdeck

23. One Minute Mysteries: 65 Short Mysteries You Solve with Math! by Eric Yoder*

24. Math-terpieces: The Art of Problem Solving by Greg Tang*

25. Math For All Seasons: Mind-Stretching Math Riddles by Greg Tang

Kid-Approved Math Books About Multiplication and Division

26. If You Were a Divided-By Sign by Trisha Speed Shaskan*

27. Division by Joseph Midthun*

28. Multiplication by Joseph Midthun*

29. If You Were a Times Sign by Trisha Speed Shaskan*

Kid-Approved Math Books About Addition and Subtraction

30. Subtraction by Joseph Midthun*

31. The Action of Subtraction by Brian P. Cleary*

32. If You Were a Minus Sign by Trisha Speed Shaskan

33. The Mission of Addition by Brian P. Cleary*

34. Addition by Joseph Midthun*

Kid-Approved Math Books About Fractions

35. Fractions in Disguise: A Math Adventure by Edward Einhorn*

36. Fraction Fun by David A Adler*

37. Fractions by Joseph Midthun*

38. If You Were a Fraction by Trisha Speed Shaskan*

39. A Fraction’s Goal – Parts of a Whole by Brian P. Cleary

Kid-Approved Math Books About Measurements

40. Mass and Weight by Barbara A. Somervill*

41. On the Scale, a Weighty Tale by Brian P. Cleary*

42. If You Were a Quart or a Liter by Marcie Aboff*

43. How Long or How Wide? A Measuring Guide by Brian P. Cleary*

44. Distance, Area, and Volume by Barbara A. Somervill*

45. Great Estimations by Bruce Goldstone*

46. Greater Estimations by Bruce Goldstone

47. How Big is a Foot? by Rolf Myller

Kid-Approved Math Books About Geometry

48. Triangles by David A. Adler*

49. If You Were a Quadrilateral by Molly Blaisdell*

50. The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns

51. Windows, Rings and Grapes: A Look at Different Shapes by Brian P Cleary

52. A-B-A-B-A – A Book of Pattern Play by Brian P Cleary

53. Basher Algebra and Geometry by Dan Green and Simon Basher

Kid-Approved Math Books About Time

54. Telling Time: How to Tell Time on Digital and Analog Clocks by Jules Older*

55. Time Zones by David A. Adler*

56. If You Were a Minute by Trisha Speed Shaskan*

57. A Second, A Minute, A Week with Days in It by Brian P. Cleary

Kid-Approved Math Books About Money

58. The Everything Kids Money Book

59. The Story of Money by Betsy Maestro

60. The History of Money: From Bartering to Banking by Martin Jenkins

61. How Many Pennies Make a Dollar by Rebecca Wingard-Nelson*

62. I Can Count Money by Rebecca Wingard-Nelson*

63. I Can Do Money Word Problems by Rebecca Wingard-Nelson*

64. I Can Add Bills and Coins by Rebecca Wingard-Nelson

65. I Can Subtract Bills and Coins by Rebecca Wingard-Nelson

66. I Can Name Bills and Coins by Rebecca Wingard-Nelson

67. You Can’t Buy a Dinosaur With a Dime: Problem-solving in Dollars and Cents by Harriet Ziefert*

68. Money Madness by David A. Adler

69. A Dollar, A Penny, How Much and How Many? By Brian P. Cleary

Kid-Approved Math Books About Numbers

70. Basher Math: A Book You Can Count On by Simon Basher

71. If You Were an Even Number by Marcie Aboff*

72. If You Were an Odd Number by Marcie Aboff*

73. Numbers by Joseph Midthun*

74. Place Value by David A. Adler

75. A Place for Zero by Angeline Sparagna LoPresti

Kid-Approved Novels and Short Stories About Math

76. 7 x 9 = Trouble! by Claudia Mills*

77. A Grain of Rice by Helena Clair Pittman*

78. The King’s Chessboard by David Birch*

79. Anno’s Magic Seeds by Mitsumasa Anno

80. Anno’s Mysterious Multiplying Jar by Masaichiro and Mitsumasa Anno

81. Sorting Through Spring by Lizann Flatt

82. Shaping up Summer by Lizann Flatt

83. Counting on Fall by Lizann Flatt

84. Sizing up Winter by Lizann Flatt

85. Infinity and Me by Kate Hosford

86. The Adventures of Penrose the Mathematical Cat by Theoni Pappas

87. The Further Adventures of Penrose the Mathematical Cat by Theoni Pappas

88. Puzzles from Penrose the Mathematical Cat by Theoni Pappas

89. Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi by Cindy Neuschwander

90. Sir Cumference and the Sword in the Cone by Cindy Neuschwander

91. Fractals, Googols, and Other Mathematical Tales by Theoni Pappas

92. The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins*

93. Stacks of Trouble by Liza Woodruff

Kid-Approved Consumable, Lesson Plan and Activity Math Books

94. Shanghai Math Project Practice Book, Year 1*

95. Picturing Math: Hands-On Activities to Connect Math With Picture Books by Colleen Kessler

96. Fibonacci Fun: Fascinating Activities With Intriguing Numbers by Trudi Hammel Garland

97. Clever Kids Math, Ages 5-7: Entertaining Activities Especially for Children*

98. Family Math by Jean Kerr Stenmark

Kid-Approved Math Books about Roman Numerals

99. Fun with Roman Numerals by David A. Adler*

100. Roman Numerals I to MM: Liber De Difficillimo Computando Numerum by Arthur Geisert*

Kid-Approved Math Books about Probability

101. That’s a Possibility!: A Book About What Might Happen by Bruce Goldstone*

102. Probably Pistachio by Stuart J. Murphy

So there you have it! Did I miss your favorite math books? Let me know!

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This post is linked to iHomeschool Network’s 100 Things: A Cache of Homeschooling and Family Treasures. Speaking of one hundred things, how would you like a chance to win one hundred dollars? There will be two lucky winners. Just click the image above for information on how to enter the iHN $100 giveaway, and for lots more collections of one hundred things!

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BOOKS :: The Only Thanksgiving Picture Books I Recommend


BOOKS :: The Only Thanksgiving Picture Books I Recommend (Oaxacaborn blog)

Can we talk briefly about Thanksgiving books?  It’s not as easy as it sounds, if you really stop and think about it, to find good Thanksgiving books for kids.

Stories about the Pilgrims and the colonial times overall — not to mention Thanksgiving itself — are very often problematic. Many of the books which provide a truly accurate account, contain content unsuitable for sensitive children. Child-friendly volumes, on the other hand, often take liberties with history, since the true story of the colonies’ tragedies and trials isn’t a child-friendly topic. And of course (and this is a biggie) many books about Pilgrims depict Native Americans in a incredibly offensive way. (I’ve written more about the way Native Americans are depicted in children’s literature.)

Thankfully, “Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving” is one of those rare early American history books that’s accurate and compelling while still being child-friendly. In fact, it’s the only picture book about the first Thanksgiving I recommend. With empathy and strength, the author — who is of Native American ancestry himself! — tells Squanto’s story in the first person.  What I love is that he begins not with the First Thanksgiving or with planting corn, but with Squanto’s first journey from North America to England. Squanto is portrayed as a man of courage, and Bruchac masterfully writes of Squanto’s difficult role in Patuxet-turned-Plymouth. With a book as solid and factual — and beautiful! — as this, there’s no reason to turn instead to watered-down inaccurate stories about this misunderstood man. Definitely add it to your library request queue or your bookstore wishlist if you haven’t already.

Another book which handles this difficult time period fairly tastefully, but not perfectly, is “Three Young Pilgrims” by Cheryl Harness.  This is a good one to give children a broad overview over of the Pilgrim perspective during the early colonial years,  since it shows various trials, hardships, and joys the Pilgrims experienced while adjusting to the New World during and after arrival.  Kids will love the large format, and the wealth of hand-lettered facts incorporated into the rich, brooding illustrations. The author admits in the overview that this “illustrated primer” can only tell “part of the story”,  and hopes it will “lead the reader to study further”.  I agree. “Three Young Pilgrims” is beautiful and touching, but glosses over a few details, so definitely read it alongside Bruchac’s book.

And always, it’s good to remember, like Cheryl Harness said, that any book we read only tells “part of the story”. Let’s keep searching for more excellent books to expand our perspective!

As I find more resources to add to the early elementary literature-based American history resource/curriculum I’m compiling,  I’m sharing a few of my favorite books on Instagram, using the #oaxacabornUShistory hashtag.

What books are you reading this Thanksgiving season?


Disclosure of Material Connection: Any Amazon links you encounter above are “affiliate links” provided in conjunction with my participation in Amazon.com’s Associates Program. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small affiliate commission. Amazon.com has not required me to place these links, nor do they have any control over which resources I choose to share. Please be assured, only the Amazon links above are affiliate links. None of the other links in this post are affiliate programs. This post is not sponsored in any way. Of course I only recommend products or services I use personally, and I will always disclose any such links in a disclaimer such as this one.

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POETRY & WORDS :: The Autumn Liturgy of Rest


POETRY & WORDS :: The Autumn Liturgy of Rest (from the Oaxacaborn blog)

I’m drawn to the changing of the seasons, the time of the year when everything is on the cusp and the old world starts dying and the new world starts coming on [1]. ( Each new day does this too, but the rising sun doesn’t bring out the poetry in me.  Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to liturgical holidays— this neat and tidy slicing up of seasons, tied to the calendar but not the clock.

It’s a reminder that mercy is new, always.)

And I like the changing of the seasons for the nudge to pause and breathe. It’s a time to take stock of whether or not frenetic busyness has creeped in, unnoticed, encroaching on our calm and peaceful margins.  Margin is important to me. Margin is vital. I cannot thrive without margin.

In the 1990s, Dr. Richard Swenson wrote about this in his book “The Overload Syndrome: Learning to Live Within Your Limits“, saying, “We must have some room to breathe. We need freedom to think and permission to heal. Our relationships are being starved to death by velocity. No one has the time to listen, let alone love. Our children lay wounded on the ground, run over by our high-speed good intentions. Is God now pro-exhaustion? Doesn’t He lead people beside the still waters anymore?”

POETRY & WORDS :: The Autumn Liturgy of Rest (from the Oaxacaborn blog)

The changing of the seasons, for me, means a reminder to cultivate those still waters in my own home. I have good intentions, of course, but they are prone to slip, and the seasons give me pause to reconsider whether I am still being intentional about my goals of rest.

Rest doesn’t happen on its own. We must fight for rest.

There’s no escaping it this time of year in Eastern Europe and in the American North. The leaves surge with one last burst of chlorophyll, summer’s flowers tuck their heads, and heirloom rugs are rolled up and beaten outside, clearing the stage for fall, scouring the home for winter, and steeling one’s heart against the coming wintry blast. All of nature is preparing for the quieter, slower season.

POETRY & WORDS :: The Autumn Liturgy of Rest (from the Oaxacaborn blog)

There’s no such meteorological shift in the climate, here.  I’ve never seen anyone take a rug out of the front door to clean it. But the days are lengthening, even if the air plants still cling to the palm trunks, and the egrets never stop sifting through the marshes for brunch.  But I don’t need an obvious equinox outdoors to prepare my home and heart for the autumnal shift, setting out pumpkins on the stoop, simmering ginger and spice on the stove, singing along to my favorite music, and pressing vinyl cling leaves up against the window panes.

This takes time and intention — and more often than not, it takes saying no to things, even good things.  You might feel silly saying “no” to that extra event, that meet-up, that task you’re not even obligated to do for the committee. You might feel self-conscious regularly scheduling in an entire day (or a week!) to breath in the scent of the autumn blend wafting out of the diffuser, stash away the clutter and close the laundry closet doors, pick up the toys off the floor and switch out the bathroom hand soaps. After all, tomorrow, the laundry doors will be open again, the LEGOs will be strewn — but you know what else? Tomorrow, the leaves on the window panes will catch your eye and the lingering aroma of clove and cinnamon will still flutter in and out of the curtains. And there’s a certain transforming power this has on the heart. Somehow, I find that when the house is clean, when corners of the home hint at  the changing season, I feel more calm and purposeful.

I suppose this is a way of presenting a visible reminder of worship before my eyes.  And in the autumn especially, when all of creation is storing and stockpiling and preparing to slow for hibernation, this visible reminder of worship pulls me into the present, and slows me. It’s easier to sit down and drink in the Word, when the clutter isn’t pulling my attention away. It’s easier to help my daughter navigate that non-stop brain of hers, when I’m not stressed over the neglected housework.

POETRY & WORDS :: The Autumn Liturgy of Rest (from the Oaxacaborn blog)

No, I’m not perfect. I haven’t learned this art  yet. My home is not a spotless showcase. I know a slower rhythm doesn’t solve the pressing problems of the world. This doesn’t instantly heal what hurts. We are real, and real people are messy people. But real people can also be purposeful people, fighting for what matters.

Preparing our homes and hearts for the season sets the stage for contentment, and for cultivating margin. That makes a big, big difference.

You see, it is difficult to pursue purpose without margin.

It is difficult to even complete tasks effectively — to say nothing of cheerfully or contentedly — without margin.

Dr. Swenson told the story of how at one point before his epiphany of rest, he was so overwhelmed, overloaded, over-scheduled and burnt out as a physician that he actually deeply resented his patients for being sick. I find in my own life, that in times of marginless frenzy, I resent my tasks as a wife, mother, and full-time educator (that last one takes up every waking hour — can you relate?)

But I refuse to glorify “busyness”.  I refuse to put “busyness” on a pedestal. I’d much rather fight for margin and rest, wouldn’t you?

It’s not a popular choice. Possibly, fighting for rest for your family might put you in uncomfortable situations. It might make you unpopular for a time. But it will also make you peace-filled.

Swenson writes of contentedness: “It has so little cultural traction that I don’t even hear it in casual conversation, let alone preached or praised. The word contented has been replaced by driven, aggressive, hungry, ruthless, relentless.

Taking a deeper look, however, we notice that contentment has been a principle in good standing throughout history, endorsed by philosophers, statesmen, men of letters and theologians of all religions. Even if times were marked by destitution, tragedy and pestilence; even if gutters were filled with beggars, doorways filled with prostitutes and people beat each other with chickens; still, contentment was lifted high. Thought leaders endorsed contentment as a source of hidden comfort and riches, treasured within a human heart despite circumstances.

It is only recently that contentment has fallen out of favor. With the escalating totalitarianism of progress and economics, something had to give, so contentment was replaced by unbridled ambition. No one stopped to have a memorial service nor slowed to light a candle.” [2]

This autumn, won’t you join me in making margin and rest your ambition? Let’s slow down together, and purpose to let our hearts rest in contentedness, no matter the storm outside.

I’ll light a candle  or three to that.

INTERIOR DESIGN :: Home Office and Homeschool Room (in an Apartment with Limited Space)


Oaxacaborn's Homeschool Room (as featured in Babiekins Magazine print edition)

Oaxacaborn's Homeschool Room (as featured in Babiekins Magazine print edition)

Oaxacaborn's Homeschool Room (as featured in Babiekins Magazine print edition)

Several months ago, I had the exciting opportunity to style a practical workspace for Babiekins Magazine; one that would function both for working from home and homeschooling. (Previously, I had styled a global-themed kids bedroom, too.) Since we live in an apartment, I didn’t have a dedicated room to serve as a home office and school room, so I cleared one wall of our living room instead. And I really didn’t want it to be a primary color menagerie of school posters.

There are a few things I really like about this space. Of course the huge wall map is right up at the top of the list! And I love the big white rug to cover the rental carpet. But I also really love how the wardrobe from IKEA hides away the printer and all the messy office/school supplies — leaving room for “pretty things, my dear”. (Oliver Twist, anyone?) And the pine bench, another IKEA find, is amazingly comfortable, and is the perfect arrangement for my daughter and to work side-by-side.

You might notice there aren’t many books in these photos — our bookcases are actually stashed in various places throughout our apartment, so they didn’t all fit in these photos. But boy, do we have a lot of books. A LOT. (My husband is legitimately concerned about this. Don’t tell him each Sonlight core adds 50 or more, give or take a dozen.)

It’s no secret I’m in love with words. I love to try to untangle the words in my mind, and coax them into sentences no one has ever read before. I love to read the expertly-woven words of not just classic authors, but contemporary voices, too. The middle ages print from the late 1400s — showing the arduous process of writing a book in the 1100s — reminds me that it hasn’t always been easy for one’s voice to be heard. This reminder, along with the “Let Your Light Shine In the Darkness” poster, spurs me on to keep speaking out.

I’m so pleased with the way our homeschool room / home office turned out — it’s such a happy, inspiring, wonderful space. (All styling by me, Gina Munsey; and thanks to Priscilla Barbosa Photography for the images!)

Oaxacaborn's Homeschool Room (as featured in Babiekins Magazine print edition)

Oaxacaborn's Homeschool Room (as featured in Babiekins Magazine print edition)

Oaxacaborn's Homeschool Room (as featured in Babiekins Magazine print edition)

Oaxacaborn's Homeschool Room (as featured in Babiekins Magazine print edition)

Oaxacaborn's Homeschool Room (as featured in Babiekins Magazine print edition)

Oaxacaborn's Homeschool Room (as featured in Babiekins Magazine print edition)

Oaxacaborn's Homeschool Room (as featured in Babiekins Magazine print edition)

Oaxacaborn's Homeschool Room (as featured in Babiekins Magazine print edition)

Oaxacaborn's Homeschool Room (as featured in Babiekins Magazine print edition)

Oaxacaborn's Homeschool Room (as featured in Babiekins Magazine print edition)

Gina_Munsey_Sonlight_5

Oaxacaborn's Homeschool Room (as featured in Babiekins Magazine print edition)

You can catch this room in the special “#SCHOOLKINS: Books, Bugs & Discovery” interior design section of the 7th print issue of Babiekins Magazine, available here.  And if you have questions about any of the items shown, just leave a comment! :)


DESK :: Malm, c/o IKEA Orlando
WALL MAP :: National Geographic, via The Map Center

MAP RAILS :: c/o Posterhanger
PINE WARDROBE :: Nornäs used as bookshelf, c/o IKEA Orlando
PINE BENCH :: Nornäs, c/o IKEA Orlando
MOROCCAN SHAG RUG :: c/o Rugs USA
GLASS JAR :: Korken, via IKEA Orlando
CERAMIC VASE :: Stylist’s Own, from Mexico City
BAMBOO SPEAKERS :: c/o Otis & Eleanor
METAL LAMP and EDISON BULB :: c/o Lamps Plus
LET LIGHT SHINE PRINT :: Naptime Diaries
DESKTOP CACTUS & TROPICAL PLANT ::  Lowe’s
SPACEPACK BACKPACKS :: c/o lukids.ru
PRINT RAILS :: c/o Posterhanger
MIDDLE AGES PRINT  :: Matthaeus Platearius Writing “The Book of Simple Medicines” via AllPosters.com
NICHOLAS NICKLEBY PRINT :: Book Cover Print via AllPosters.com
ROW OF 3 PRINTS :: Emily McDowell Studio and Jessica Sprague Printables
LAMP and SHADE :: Target
COWHIDE ::  Koldby, c/o IKEA Orlando
BOOKCASE :: Billy, via IKEA Orlando

PERCH CHAIR :: c/o Room & Board
STUDENT DESK :: Flash Furniture Desk with Metal Book Box, via Amazon

Disclosure of Material Connection: Any Amazon links you encounter above are “affiliate links” provided in conjunction with my participation in Amazon.com’s Associates Program. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small affiliate commission. Amazon.com has not required me to place these links, nor do they have any control over which resources I choose to share. Please be assured, only the Amazon links above are affiliate links. None of the other links in this post are affiliate programs.. Of course I only recommend products or services I use personally, and I will always disclose any such links in a disclaimer such as this one.

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