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Covert Writing II, Art Treasure Hunt, Teaching Money Math

By Heather Idoni

Added Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 10 No 26 April 2, 2009
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2009 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

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Guest Article
-- Covert Creative Writing
Helpful Tip
-- Art Museum Treasure Hunt!
Winning Website
-- Weather Wiz Kids
Reader Question
-- How to Teach Money Math?
Additional Notes
-- Newsletter Archives
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Guest Article

Covert Creative Writing (Part Two)
-- by Karen Lange

This is the second portion of a three part series on ways to use
covert methods to incorporate writing into the day. I'm not
advocating deceiving the kids -- just offering some different and
unobtrusive ideas that create opportunities to add writing into the
mix. With a little forethought and creativity, these activities can
provide writing practice without pain and pressure. As mentioned
in Part One, just like every small part of a good diet adds up to
a healthy body, small episodes of writing will help develop writing
and thinking skills.

Part Two - Projects

Projects, such as for science or history, can provide extra writing
practice. Research involves observing, thinking, and taking notes.
Taking notes means writing, and provides an opportunity to express
thoughts on paper. Projects might not be all that popular with the
kids, but there are ways to make them fun. They can be short, like
one to two week units, and tied into interests and existing studies.

For example, are you studying any inventors in history? Do a short
unit where kids become inventors, creating a business or product.
Requirements will vary depending on your schedule, kid’s ages, etc.,
but could include the creation of a concept, and an ad for this
product or business.

Older students could design an ad, fliers, and write a script for a
30 second radio or television commercial. Commercials can be taped,
if you like. An age appropriate, brief introductory overview could
include information such as the importance of creating a product or
business that has consumer appeal, is useful, and marketable. Consider
exploring advertising methods and critical thinking ideas, such as
not believing every ad you see.

The first time we did an inventor project my kids were ages 6, 8, and
10. I told them that they were going to invent a product or business,
that they had to choose a name and design an ad, and that we would
videotape a short commercial for each one. I helped them brainstorm
and with whatever else was needed during the process. The ads were
cute, and the commercials contained a fair amount of ad-libbing. (I
didn't require a whole lot of my daughter, the youngest. She just
wanted to be in on it with her brothers, so I adjusted accordingly.)
This unit was a good learning experience, designed to make them think
and write a little. The projects were considered part of their school
work, and we completed them over the course of two weeks.

Skip ahead 5 years – our teen co-op did the same project. Our students
created a product or business with more detailed guidelines. The product
or business had to have a name, a fact sheet, a visual of some sort
(such as a prototype, picture, or demonstration), an ad, and students
had to give a 2-5 minute oral presentation. We provided a short lesson
that outlined the guidelines and discussed advertising techniques. To
the untrained eye, this did not look like a writing project, but it
had many facets, one of which was writing.

The Top Five

A list, such as the 'Top Five Favorite Foods' is another way to add
writing into the day. Designate the day as 'Top Five Day', choose a
topic or two or three, and have the kids take turns questioning family
and friends at home, via email, or by phone. Topics could be The Top
Five favorite foods, reasons to homeschool, favorite books, movies,
vacation spots, or authors. Or try different topics like the 'Top Five
Things Not to Do at a Restaurant'. Results could be posted on the
refrigerator or discussed over dinner.

Older students could try a Top Ten list or a poll. They could also
compile and analyze results according to age groups, gender, etc.
This could expand into other projects, such as a survey. A survey
requires questions, and guess what? More writing! Surveys can be done
about most anything, from people’s knowledge of historical or scientific
facts to a political poll to advice on what makes a good marriage.
Survey results could be assembled into an article, a fact sheet, or

Thoughts to Consider

Depending on the activity, choose areas to have kids edit and refine,
but do it prudently, and non-English-lesson-like. If the caption for
the picture on the science poster need to be revised, then have them
fix it. Older students may need more polished work if it is included
in a portfolio or for a co-op project. Temper your expectations, avoid
standing over them with a red pen at every step in the process, and
maintain a balanced mindset. Take satisfaction in knowing that some
writing practice will occur during the course of the project.

When kids are distracted with a project, their focus often shifts, and
the writing part may not seem like as big a deal. Writing this way may
come more easily and naturally. Certainly, there is a time and a place
for working on writing mechanics, particularly as the kids get into
the upper grades. However, if you can view other avenues as a means
to helping develop writing skills, you will be ahead of the game.


Karen Lange and her husband Jeff homeschooled their three children in
grades K-12. She is a freelance writer and the creator of the Homeschool
Online Writing Co-op for teens. Visit her website at:
www.hswritingcoop.bravehost.com or email her at writingcoop@yahoo.com


Do you have comments to share? Please do!
Send your emails to: mailto:heather@familyclassroom.net




Helpful Tip

An Idea for Visiting Art Museums with Young Children

"When I used to explore museums with my two sons (now teenagers),
I would boldly start each visit at the museum's gift shop. There,
I'd let each select three postcards of paintings, and then we'd
take off in hot pursuit of them. They found this 'Treasure Hunt'
approach fabulous, and they'd - gasp - actually ask to go to art
museums. By the time we'd located and discussed all six works
(after covering miles of museum!), one and all were ready to leave.
Hope this works for you!"

-- Susan Benford, http://www.TheMasterpieceCards.com


Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share? Please write!
Send to: mailto:HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net

Winning Website

Weather Wiz Kids - www.weatherwizkids.com

Designed by a meteorologist who wants to share her love of the
study of weather with kids, this site is packed with information
and activities for both kids and their teachers. The left side
bar has every weather or atmospheric phenomena you can imagine.
Just click to go to a page dedicated to that weather topic where
you'll find clear explanations, animations, photos, illustrations,
and links. For instance, on the 'Lightning' page, there's a link
to a site for readers to see where lightning is striking in the
U.S. - very cool!

-- Cindy at www.HomeschoolingFromTheHeart.com

Last Issue's Reader Question

"I need help teaching money math to my homeschooled grandson. (I'm a
homeschooling Nana). He's almost 8 and in 2nd grade. He enjoys math --
and is advancing well -- but I am simply not sure how to teach money
math. I've purchased a money drawer with coins that look so real you'd
think they were until you pick them up -- and he enjoys 'playing' with
this, but HOW do I teach adding the coins and bills, subtracting, etc.?
I've hit a brick wall on this one and welcome suggestions." -- Jayne

Our Readers' Responses

"For learning about money, we would get out our canned goods, toys and
other things and set up a store in the living room or kitchen. Then I
would have my daughter be the cashier and I would be the customer. I
would make it fun and help her with figuring out the amount of money to
pay and what is given back. We would also switch places. We had fun
while learning about making change and counting the money.

Remember to make it fun because when you make it fun it usually sticks
in their minds better than sitting at a desk doing math worksheets or
flashcards all the time."
-- Jo Ann, www.homeschoolblogger.com/outoftheboxmom


"'Presto Chango' is a great game for teaching beginning money skills.

Games are actually very useful in teaching math skills -- when they
are older use Monopoly -- or take them shopping and have them help
count out the change." -- Kathy in CA


"Hi Jayne! My kids liked to play 'how many' when we were learning
money. They liked to figure out how many of each coin and dollar
they needed to buy something. If the item cost $1.35, what money
would they use to buy the item? We played store a lot when they were
young. Their play transferred into real world skills because I let
them buy their own snack at the grocery store. They sure had big
smiles on their faces while they ate a snack that they had purchased
by themselves. Learning money is easy -- just play store!" -- Alisha


"I just talked about this with my supervising teacher! My 2nd grader
can read and write the amounts, but she can't add up the coins. Our
teacher recommends having the child memorize the value of 1, 2, 3 and
4 quarters, and then teaching the child to count the coins from the
greatest value to the least:

2 quarters, 3 dimes, a nickel and a penny would be counted 50, 60, 70,
80, 85, 86 = $0.86.

To learn about and play with money, we used the money units at
http://www.learningpage.com/pages/menu_basics/money.html and
http://www.beaconlearningcenter.com/UnitPlan/4344.htm " -- MaryEllen


"My kids absolutely love to play 'yard sale'. This has helped them
immensely with their money math. I give them a certain amount of
money and they 'shop' around the house. They bring me what they
would like and I tell them the prices. They have a blank sheet of
paper that they have to total out the prices (adding) and then
subtract from what they have on hand (subtraction). If they have
money left over they go shopping again. It's a very simple way for
them to practice and to have fun!" -- Jodi


"Jayne -- I would think about all the ways that money is used in the
real world. For example, buying items (tickets, food) at different
stores (county fair, grocery store), using money to pay monthly
expenses, saving money, donating money (tithes, charity) -- anything
that you do with money that he can observe. Talk about all of those
things. Go to the library and get books about money, fiction or non-
fiction, and read them together. Then I would integrate money into
his current math program if he has one -- re-write problems to include
money, and use the money you have as counters or manipulatives. You
can go from just using cents to working with dollars and cents in
written work, if he is ready to talk about percents, decimals and
fractions. Also, setting up games where he has to 'buy' items using
real or pretend money is helpful. You could give him fake money (early
on) or credit in a ledger (later) for each subject or chore he completes,
then let him purchase fun things in correct change -- time on the computer,
TV time, video games, an outing at the park, etc. You can pay him one
amount at a time. He may end up with lots of pennies and a few bigger
coins, which he could then add, exchange and trade in for the things he
wants. He will quickly be adding and subtracting his money to see what
he can buy with the change he has. Many websites have free money work-
sheets you can download and print to supplement these kinds of activities.
Also, our local dollar store has workbooks about time and money for $1
that would be great for practice.

My children have learned more about money from me 'thinking out loud'
while paying bills, buying food, getting gas, etc., than they have from
worksheets, so I would make sure to present the whole idea in real-world
terms. My two littles are 6 and 7; both know money math, but I've never
actually taught it to them on paper. Good luck!" -- Anne


"We always used real money and played 'store; to teach money skills.
My boys also played the computer game, 'Money Town' almost daily. That
game really helped them - in fact, my oldest played it the most. When
my younger son came to that stage, we didn't use the game as much. It
definitely took him longer to master money math, and as a teen he's still
not has adept as his older brother when it comes to figuring change quickly.
You can find it here on Amazon.com."

-- Cindy, www.HomeschoolingFromTheHeart.com


"There are a lot of textbooks/fun books, etc. out there, but the best way
for us was simply to 'play store'.

We took various empty containers and set up a store. We just played and
my kids were either cashiers or customers. They figured out how to count
change as well as how money worked. We used the real looking coins and
such in little cash drawers (available at dollar stores). You can also
use real coins if you prefer.

The Federal Reserve also offers a lot of materials at no charge for students.

I used this for my older students (middle/high school)." -- Lucinda


"When we started doing money problems, I set up a little store with candy,
gum, and little prizes that I would open once or twice a week. My daughter
(who was 6 and 7 at the time) would get so many dollars and cents of play
money, and she could spend that at the store. She would have to count out
the money, and tell me how much change she should get back in order to buy
the items. (At first I had to help her, but she caught on pretty fast.)
You could also purchase a play cash register, and have him be the cashier
of his own shop.

Give him incentives to use money in real life as well. I have heard that
'Grocery Cart Math' is a useful tool on those trips to the store!


These online games might help as well:


And if you are looking for a site to help with learning spending
and saving concepts, I would recommend www.minyanland.com and
www.orangekids.com ." -- Aadel in KS, http://deldobuss.wordpress.com


"Hi! Try starting out with just one dollar bills, dimes, and
pennies. When looking at money amounts, the number of dollar bills
and coins needed is actually shown in the digits (ex: $5.25 - You
need 5 dollars, 2 dimes, and 5 pennies to make that amount). As he
comes to understand this, he can then begin learning how a nickel is
like half a dime or 5 pennies, and he can then progress to quarters.
Slice a fruit into quarters to demonstrate how 4 quarters equals 1
dollar." -- Shelly


"What has worked for my son, now 8, has been real-world practice with
money. He's very interested in money and the things it can buy, so I
let him choose something small at the grocery store and pay for it. He
can't always do the math, but the more experience he gets, the more
his interest develops, and the more he is motivated to figure it out.
Now he gets his can of coins out and adds them up with no problem.
We've never drilled on this, other than counting by fives and tens. He
still sometimes asks how much a quarter is worth, but most of the time
he knows, and knows how to add several of them plus the other coins.
He easily added $3.75 plus $3.75 in his head the other day when we
bought Girl Scout cookies."


"I've found a wonderful game for teaching how to make change -- it's
called 'Presto Chang-O'.

My daughter was older when we began playing and learned in just a
few times how to count back change for $5. Now we play about once
a month for review." -- Betty Jo in FL


"Hi Jayne -- I have used a website that has taught my kiddos a lot
(me as well). It's www.aaamath.com . My son 13, is learning consumer
math right now and he has excelled in it in only a couple of days.
It breaks it down in steps so it's easy to get. If your grandson
can add and subtract, this will be very easy for him." -- Trish


"I had no luck teaching money math until my son was old enough to
have his own pocket money -- then it REALLY mattered to him that he
got the right change and had enough to buy that special something!
I think it helped that at the same time (Grade 3) he had to learn
counting by 2s, 5s, 10s to get started with multiplication. Suddenly
counting up those nickels and dimes made sense, and he was fast enough
at it to not take all day. Up until then, just playing store wasn't
real enough for a boy." -- Liz in BC


"Hi Jayne! I would encourage you to check out Math-U-See. We began
using this program for the first time this year and we love it! Each
math concept is broken down into mini-lessons that the child watches on
DVD. Then there are practice sheets to review the lesson. Math-U-See
has such a unique (and unbelievably simple) way of presenting each
lesson. My nine year old went from hating math to it now being one
of her favorite subjects!" -- B.J.


"Jayne -- Set up a play store with different items marked with prices.
He can 'shop' and then pay at the cash register. Have him figure out
how much money to give you to pay and then eventually let him be the
cashier and he will need to make change.

Another idea is to use the game Presto-Change-O.

My kids learned to make change very quickly and did it while having
fun." -- Tari in Texas


"A fabulous idea that I heard of was letting the child have an ad paper
from a toy store. You give the child a certain spending amount and they
choose toys that they would be interested in and learn how much they
could purchase with the amount that they have." -- Anissa


"Jayne -- Thanks for your contribution to your son's education/training.
When we came to this step in math, my son set up a 'store'. He used
empty cereal boxes, egg cartons, vegetable cans, (open bottom instead
of top) and various items from around the house. (He enjoyed that part,
too.) He named his store, made a sign, set his prices, and made labels.
I encouraged him to be realistic with the item's value while setting
prices. You can take this to a higher level if your child is old enough
to have 'percentage off' sales, too. But, for learning money this was a

He enjoyed being the entrepreneur with his own 'cash-drawer' totaling
the sales and giving the correct change. It was a wonderful teaching
tool and well worth the time spent." -- Lori

Answer our NEW Question

"I am thinking about homeschooling my daughter for the next two
years so she will miss the Jr. High where we live. She will be
in the 7th grade. I have always wanted to homeschool her, but
being a single parent with extremely limited outside support and
having to work full-time as a teacher in the district, it hasn't
been possible. Do any of you have any ideas or suggestions? I
do plan for her to take band and participate in the school's
sports offerings. I simply know since I teach in that school
district that it isn't the safest place for her to be. I also
have doubts about the quality of the '3 R's' education she is
getting. I am just so confused about all of it right now that
I think any feedback would be very welcome." -- Julianna D.


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