2014-11-09 21.00.12As a kid growing up, I learned the usual Bible stories; Noah and the Arc, David and Goliath, Adam and Eve, Moses and the Ten Commandments, etc.  It wasn’t until I was an adult that I figured out how all of these pieces fit together in the bigger God story. 

Now as a parent, my challenge is how do I give my children a better understanding of the Bible than I had?  How do I make it relevant to them at an early age?  For nearly two years, I prayed, planned and discussed methods; then one day it hit me. The inspiration for my lesson plan came from one simple word:  “context”. 

Context was the missing element from my youth.  “Great, David killed a giant thousands of years ago…so what?  Did that happen before or after the flood?  Was Moses around to see the battle?  Why were there giants around anyway? “

My thought is that context comes from understanding God’s relationship with His people over time (i.e on a timeline).  When Adam and Eve were living happily in the Garden, the relationship between God and man was “perfect”.  When they rebelled, man’s relationship with God was “cursed.”  As Moses brought the ten commandments, man’s relationship took a step up to “the law.”  Then Jesus came to redeem us from the curse and move us beyond the law into a relationship of “grace.” 

Knowing the “hot points” on the timeline (Adam and Eve, Moses, Jesus) and our relationship with God (perfect, curse, the law, grace), we are then going to fill in the blanks of the story.  Moses freed the Israelites from Egypt…why were the Israelites slaves in the first place?  So we will spend a couple days studying Joseph to answer that question. But we will also note that the story of Joseph happened while we were still under the curse…before the law. 

Being a visual learner (and teacher), I have put together the mother of all Biblical foam board timelines on my office wall.  As we learn a story or a part of a story the girls help me  put pictures and key words on the timeline to help us remember the significant points of the story (tactile learning). 

For instance, today we studied the young Moses.  We made a special note of Miriam (as we are going to highlight women of the Bible) and the burning bush.  Under a picture of the burning bush we put “you are chosen.” 

I hope to blog updates of our progress as we muddle through this process, hopefully getting better and having more fun learning about the Bible.

As my girls and I work on this big God story together, I pray that over time, the understanding of God’s love for us, which began at the beginning of time and has never stopped, will be tattooed on their hearts.  And that time we spend together talking about God, in the presence of God, will deepen their knowledge of their daddy’s love for them as well. 

ImageFor most of Sara’s second grade experience, her teacher noted on her weekly goals to use “more interesting language.”  I’m not exactly sure what exercises she was supposed to do but I didn’t see much progress in her vocabulary during the year.  So this summer we are working on dynamic and impressive words.  Unfortunately, vocabulary is not one of my strengths.

Oh, what to do?

One night, as I read a book to the girls titled “Consider Love” by one by one of my favorite children’s authors, Sandra Boynton, I realized that she was using beautiful, interesting words to describe love.  Viola!  Here is my vocabulary list for this summer.  We have words like: frivolous, mysterious, despairing, unbounded, etc.  I love when I seek an answer and it simply appears.

So I made a list of the words that we are going to study this summer.  The trick then, was how to incorporate our vocabulary words with all of the other English lessons I want to teach.  After five failed attempts, I finally got the answer.  The exercise sheet looks something like this:

  • Write a definition of the word.  Yes, we have to pull out a paper-based dictionary and flip through pages..how retro!
  • What part of speech is it?  We are learning nouns, verbs and adjectives
  • Name four things that are {insert vocabulary word here}.  Trying to broaden our understanding of nouns
  • Name four things that {insert vocabulary word here} things do.  Trying to broaden our understanding of verbs
  • Write a sentence that uses the vocabulary word, a noun and a verb from the lists.

We are having a hard time coming up with the list of nouns and verbs but I guess that’s what exercises are all about.  My goal is that this exercise can help Sara understand how an interesting adjective and verb can really add flavor to her writing.

I’m not sure how much Sara is learning but I can tell you that I’m learning scads!


test everything; hold fast what is good. (Thessalonians 5:22)

photo (38) Ask any teacher who follows the common core (CC) curriculum and they will tell you that the old fashioned “algorithm” of borrowing and carrying is too prone to mistakes, no one understands it and it doesn’t teach placement value of numbers. For full disclosure, I haven’t interviewed every teacher of CC, but the teachers I’ve interacted with and websites I visit say the same thing.

Granted, borrowing and carrying is difficult to understand but the CC answer borders on insanity, here’s a video describing their methods: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVqqPwhZRDs. On the video they missed the CC strategy of having a kid count on their fingers and toes (and for really big numbers, their neighbors fingers and toes)!

While I understand all of the methods and what they are trying to teach, I’ve also seen the effects of teaching a second grade kid three, four or five different methods to solve an equation; they don’t really understand any of them. Confusion, frustration, anger, hopelessness…and those are just my emotions when forced to solve a simple equation with multiple CC methods, you should see Sara’s list of emotions!

Plus it’s simple statistics, the more calculations they do, the more prone to error the calculation becomes. As you saw in the video, some of the methods have exponentially more calculations than the “old fashioned” way.

What’s a summer homeschooling dad to do?
Read the rest of this entry »

imagesYesterday Sara and I signed the summer contract for 2.5 months of summer learning, two lessons per day, in exchange for the grand prize of $50.  My little Sara made me very proud in two ways:  First, the contract was written in cursive and she read every word, second, she negotiated the terms about how she would lose the $50.  While I was proud of her for negotiating, she unfortunately didn’t gain any ground. 

Today was the second day of summer learning and we picked up right where we left off last year.  Sara got right into the groove and I had the lessons ready to go….easy!  

Last year at this time was very stressful because there was so much for Sara to learn and I wasn’t sure how I was going to pull it off in such a short time.  This year Sara is about where she needs to be academically so we can spend this summer getting ahead of the curve.  In math Sara is doing really well, I expect to get through +, –  and x up to 10’s and begin some division.  

I want to focus our efforts this summer in vocabulary, spelling and writing (in cursive); unfortunately some of my least favorite/competent subjects.  How do we make this fun and educational?  I’m not quite sure…but I’ll keep you posted.


“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,” (Galatians 5:22)

wpid-imgres-2014-03-26-15-17.jpg This week is Spring Break for our girls. With Sara missing over two months of school this year due to illness, we are doing a mini-intensive home schooling this week. In preparation, I created a Goal List; a list of activities that we need to accomplish by the end of the week. There is a lot to do, so we really don’t have much time to waste; but we don’t want to feel rushed or overwhelmed either.

As I put together lesson plans, organized materials, planned how (and when) to do the lessons, I can’t help but remember the amazing time that Sara and I had last year in summer school. How she went from really not ready for second grade to quite capable in second grade in a few months. With summer just a few short months away, I look forward with eager anticipation to summer school 2014. As an extra inspiration, when we began doing our lessons, Sara said “this is what we do during the summer (not spring break).” I love that she connected our lessons with summer.

This year, unlike last, I have a good idea of the objectives, curriculum and methods. If we can make good progress quickly, I have some special lessons that I’m dying to teach.

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. Proverbs 16:3


I have a dream.

I dream that my childrens, childrens children (and beyond) will benefit from Melissa and me; in faith and finance. That our lives make such an impact, that it’s effects and blessing echo through generations.

What is the string that connects one generation to others? I believe it’s the passing on of wisdom.

Take for example Proverbs 4 where Solomon recounts his fathers teachings. When it came time for Solomon to become king and God asked what he desired, he was prepared for the correct answer; not money or long-life but “wisdom” (so God not only provided wisdom but money, honor and long-life too too).

The tricky thing about wisdom is that you don’t just obtain it. First there is knowledge or bits of information, as the pieces come together you get understanding and after it’s been practiced a million times and becomes as easy as breathing you have wisdom. So how do you teach your kids wisdom? First give them knowledge, or organized bits of information and let it develop into understanding.

Regarding money, I dream that my kids are financially astute, that we open businesses and work on investments, ventures, and charitable projects together. Knowing that my girls are only 7 and 4 years old, what do we teach today that gives us the proper compass setting for financial astuteness tomorrow?

I believe that good, old-fashioned allowance is a solid choice.

When I first decided that it was time for Sara to start getting an allowance, I talked to fellow parents and read lots of opinions on internet blogs, articles and forums. The range was wide; from no allowance because they didn’t want their kids getting an entitlement mentality to giving allowance with no other strings attached. As a person whom the simple mention of the word “entitlement” makes my blood boil, the last thing I would ever want to do is accidentally train my kids that money is just given to them…what to do?

As my aikido instructor used to say, “when things become difficult, go back to the basics.”

So here is my understanding of the basics of money. Money has three aspects:
– it flows in
– it flows out, and
– it can be leveraged

I thought it would be a good lesson to use allowance to simply teach one of the aspects; out-flows. Money can be spent on consumables (toys, food, clothes), invested for a return or given to charity. To have a firm concept of out-flows and spending buckets at the age of 7 would a pretty good start to financial wisdom.

When we started giving allowance to Sara, I gave her 3 envelopes to decorate. On one envelope she wrote “charity” another “savings” and the third “spending”. Each week Sara puts 1/3 of her allowance in each envelope. In the beginning Sara had to describe to me what each envelope could be used for. “This one is for charity, we use this money to help people in need.” “This envelope is for savings, we use this money for big purchases later in life.” “This one I can spend on what I want.”

With this compartmentalization from the start – Sara doesn’t even ask to take money from savings or charity for spending. She has internalized the separation of her spending buckets and knows her spending limits. Imagine if everyone knew their spending limits!!

She only gets $1 per week for spending so we have to be realistic about what we expect her to buy. When she wants a toy or stuffed animal, she uses her spending money. If she doesn’t have enough, she has to save for more weeks to get it. Is the toy worth saving for a few extra weeks? If not, it really doesn’t have much value to her and we shouldn’t buy it anyway. If so, she waited and put off other purchases to get the toy and avoided the instant gratification of a purchase.

Charity is a cornerstone of our faith and we want to instill this value in our children. Probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned (and want to pass along) is that you should be vested in causes that you contribute to. It’s easy to cut a check, throw it over the fence and feel good about yourself. But I want my kids to experience the cause that they are supporting, I want it to be close to their heart and have them feel compassion for those that they are helping. Giving needs to be from compassion, not obligation.

By compartmentalizing her money, I believe it’s easier to teach about charity. With $X in the charity envelope, we can have a conversation on how are we going to give it away versus trying to negotiate how much of her spending money we are going to give to charity. Recently her charity envelope has become overstuffed – Sara is now telling me that we need to give some of this money to people(!!!)

Allowance for our family is still a work in progress but so far the results have been better than I imaged. I believe that by being specific and realistic on what the lesson is that we want allowance to teach is vital to it’s success. So today, I continue dreaming of the family business.

Proverbs 4:5-7 (NKJV)
Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; Love her, and she will keep you.

wpid-images-2013-08-8-15-18.jpegHere we are, the last couple weeks before school starts. Sara has simply been amazing this summer. We have had lessons twice a day 5 days a week for this whole summer. We started from the beginning of 1st grade math went through most (if not all) of the 2nd grade math curriculum and have even morphed into spelling/phonics and reading; I’ve dubbed this summer “The Summer of Math..or whatever.”

If anyone asks me what my favorite part summer was, I can say without hesitation, my favorite part was the time I spent with Sara in our lessons. The confidence she gained, the confidence I gained, how we worked out any obstacles or “opportunities” together, and the time getting to know and better understand Sara has been priceless.

As we wind up our contract for summer math, Sara has decided on the cash option vs. the new, fully accessorized build-a-bear. But before we complete the contract, we are going to do a final exam for second grade math.

At the beginning of this project I defined the goals (Step 2: Goals). Our final exam will be on all of the items I defined. Of all the points, the first one was the most work and is our biggest accomplishment; addition / subtraction up to 20.

This week we have been doing an addition intensive, mostly learning to carry numbers.

(side note rant)

If anyone can tell me why in the world kids have to learn to do math horizontally, I would love to know. What is the value of solving the an equation laid out like this: 17 + 19 vs. vertically? Before this summer, the last time I remember solving a problem like that (horizontally) was in second grade!

(end of rant)

Next week we are going to do an intensive on subtraction and borrowing. We’ll spend a couple days in final exam preparation then have a final exam. My plan is for the preparation to be intensive and the exam to be “encouraging.”

Proverbs 24:27: Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.

wpid-photo-2013-07-11-10-59.jpgI’ve noticed that Sara has a hard time focusing on math. She solves one problem, gets goofy, talks, fidgets, etc. for a while then regroups and does another one only to then un-focus again. For a while I was doing math drills – how many problems can she do in 1 minute. That seemed to do the trick nicely but has lost some of it’s effectiveness; Sara needs new ways to keep her interested and focused.

Over the last couple days I’ve been baffled. We usually start our lesson with flash cards and Sara can plow through them effortlessly. Yet when we move to the workbooks that have the same equations in them, she flounders. How could that be?

This morning I had a revelation; the problem is distraction. Flash cards don’t have any other equations on them, only the one that she is supposed to solve; the workbook page has 20 other equations. My theory is that if we cover up the other equations, she can focus on the one equation at a time and not be distracted by the others. So this morning, with my trusty pocket knife I carved a prototype of the “equation focus tool.” Sara loved it and confirmed my theory that it was easier to focus on when we cover up the rest of the equations.

“it is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings to search out a matter.” (Proverbs 25:2)

wpid-number_squares_three-2013-07-8-13-46.gifAt the mid-term we began our subtraction intensive study hoping that would only take a couple of weeks to be refreshed on the concepts. I was then hoping to spend the last portion of the summer with story problems and mid-level second grade math.

Unfortunately, when we began the subtraction focus, it became evident that subtraction was a little further behind than I had expected. It’s no wonder that Sara hated school so much, when you’re trying to figure something out and the class keeps moving forward, it’s frustrating and scary. In math, if you don’t get basic addition and subtraction, you’re going to struggle with anything else math-based.

So, we start at the beginning; first grade, subtraction day 1.

I’m going to try a different approach with subtraction. We’ll start out working subtraction by numbers of 1 through 5 using points. So 10 – 3 is figured by counting down 10, 9, 8,7 using three points on the 3 to count backward (like the picture to this post). With 6-9 we’ll use a counting down method. I’m thinking that we get really good with a couple methods and have Sara practice them for speed (and accuracy) and we should be in good shape pretty quickly.

Sara is getting really comfortable with addition so I’m also trying to work number combinations like 5, 7, 12 (5+7=12, 12-5=7, 12-7-5) so she can use addition to compute her subtraction. So far, not so good but we’ll keep working on a few key combinations.

While it may seem like we are behind, I’m encouraged by Sara’s skip counting (preparing for multiplication). So far we have:

– 2’s up to 100 (goal achieved)

– 3’s up to 24 (goal achieved)

– 4’s up to 20 (goal is 32)

– 5’s up to 100 (goal achieved)

– 6’s nothing yet (goal is 42)

We can spell our numbers to fourteen (20 is the summer goal).

We had a new lesson that falls under Big Concepts for Little People; partnerships. Sara wanted a set of walkie-talkies and didn’t have enough money and I kind of wanted a pair for my up coming hunting trip. So we worked together to determine what features we wanted then went to Amazon and researched which models met our requirements and finally read customer reviews on our candidates. The one we wanted was $60 but Sara only had $6 to spend. She had an idea, a product and a little money (skin in the game) but needed a money guy to back it…aka me. So we agreed on the terms and cost-split and the partnership was formed for the walkie-talkies.

I know it seems like a lot more trouble than just saying “no” to the walkie talkies or saying that we will just buy them, but I think it’s worth it as I was able to teach a concept of a partnership (and to some extent joint-tenancy) and how to research (and sell to investors) a product. I’m sure we’ll go over this concept many times as the girls grow – cell phones, bicycles, car, etc.

ImageTonight after the girls were in bed and Melissa and I had a few minutes to catch up, Melissa mentioned that Sara has been “all about numbers” lately.  Figuring out how much older Melissa’s brother is than she and her sister (calculating the difference), working on time, etc.  If true, this is big!  When she notices numbers in real life and does calculations to better understand relationships of daily life, math is becoming part of her being.

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