Life at Warp Speed

life, faith, food, parenting, homeschooling and just about anything else that is on my mind

Free Stanford online class to help parents with their kids’ math! June 21, 2013

Filed under: Education,Homeschooling — lifeatwarpspeed @ 6:16 pm
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Stanford Online. (scroll down to How to Learn Math)

Obviously, I am all about the free on this blog, and this is the age of free online education. There is a vast array of free on-line classes for just about anything you can think of and from premier universities in our country.

If you are parent that works or one that homeschools, I frequently hear a lot about struggling with mathematics. Even though our household is a “math-y” family, I am signed up right away for this free on-line offering from Dr. Jo Boaler. This course aims to help any one working with a student in math rethink your approach and how to effectively help your child.

Given the dismal state of math education in the US, all parents are right to be concerned about how they can help their students be successful in their studies. I totally get that the majority of parents (unless they have STEM backgrounds) may feel uncomfortable and uncertain once their child starts to get to middle school and higher math.

(excerpt from the course description)

Dr Jo Boaler is Professor of Mathematics Education at Stanford University, editor of the research commentary section of JRME, and author of seven books, including “What’s Math Got To Do With It” (US) / “The Elephant in the Classroom” (UK). Former roles have included being the Marie Curie Professor of Mathematics Education in England and a mathematics teacher in London comprehensive schools.Who is this course for?
This course is for teachers of math (K-12) or for other helpers of students, such as parents. After the summer I will release a student version of this course. This course provides an opportunity for teachers and parents to preview the ideas for students and think about how they may be useful, as well as learn from new research ideas and share ideas with other teachers and parents who enroll in the course.

What is the pace of the course?

The course will launch on July 15th, a good pace may be to take 2 sessions per week, but you can choose your own pace. The course will close on September 27th, 2013.

Recommended for parents and teachers of any child studying mathematics. Dr. Boaler is planning to release a student version of the course after this summer.



Free Math Facts Made Easy Book! April 1, 2013

Filed under: Deals,Early Elementary,Education,Homeschooling — lifeatwarpspeed @ 7:51 pm
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Free Math Facts Made Easy Book |

How to Learn is giving a million free copies of this bestselling book and workbook by Pat Wyman. I think that the biggest challenge for early primary math is mastery of math facts so that you can quickly recall them. Math becomes difficult as students advance in grade level without a solid foundation in this area. Grab this deal!



Educents – $10 free today.

Filed under: Deals,Education,Homeschooling — lifeatwarpspeed @ 7:47 pm
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Educents Pre-Launch – Sign Up Now for your free $10 gift card!.

If you are a homeschooler, professional educator or a parent that supplements at home, this new daily deals site is pretty interesting. They will be offering a educational software, e-books, books, curricula, on-line learning, and other resources for 30 to 90% off. If you sign up today (4/1) before their launch tomorrow, you will get $10 free credit towards any future purchases.



Preschool Prep DVD sets – Saavy Source Deal until 2/19 February 13, 2012

Filed under: Baby/Toddler,Deals,Education,Kid's TV,Preschool — lifeatwarpspeed @ 4:43 pm
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Letters, Numbers, Shapes & Colors. Offered at $25.

Phonics Set. Offered at $20.

Sight Words set. Offered at $20.

I originally purchased the 7 DVD set (the 4 DVD set plus the Sight Words set) at Costco based on the reviews I had seen of the series. My son just loves this series, and it helped him immensely in his learning journey. Even now, he asks to watch different ones from time to time. However, be forewarned this is not designed for the older child or young children that have been exposed to a lot of children’s television since series is designed to be highly repetitive without a lot of distracting animation or plot lines. So, for an adult, this can be mind numbingly boring. However, for a young child, highly repetitive, very simple presentation of these basic concepts are really what children need to learn.

You will be pleasantly surprised at how quickly your child will master letter recognition among other concepts. I actually would recommend that you do not introduce the numbers DVD until your child has mastered the concept of numerical quantity. I believe it is really quite important that children master that skill well before the abstract concept of numerical symbols are introduced. This will go a long way to helping your child in his mastery of early math skills.

This is a good price for the Preschool Prep series. I am getting the Phonics set which I have long thought was a major missing component of the series since Meet the Letters only introduces the names of the letters. Even though M already mastered letter sounds and sight words for over a year now, I am looking forward to using the digraphs and blends DVDs since that is the next step that we need to tackle in his mastery of phonics. He has a reading vocabulary of at least 800 words, but he really can’t progress as an independent reader until he can master the phonics skill of decoding words he doesn’t know.

Highly recommended for young toddlers up to age 4 or 5 depending on exposure to other television. Don’t forget that since this is a Saavy Source deal, you can designate a school to benefit from a portion of your purchase price.


Update: I can say that this phonics set is very well done. They have been able to do what I have been unable to do via teaching: help my son understand blends and digraphs. I like that the letter sounds DVD does identify vowels which is important. That DVD was less useful since he already mastered that, but he did know his vowels after one viewing which is great.


$30 for $60 of Little Pim – limited time January 19, 2012

Filed under: Deals,Education,Kid's TV — lifeatwarpspeed @ 11:43 am
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The Best Daily Deals in San Francisco – Little Pim – $60 to Spend on Language-Learning Products.

Great deal from Living Social! $30 for $60 worth of products from Little Pim foreign language learning products at their online store. . This deal expires in 6 days.

M still loves watching Little Pim and his antics. We have the six DVD sets in both Chinese and French. This award winning series was created by Julia Pimsleur Levine (daughter of the creator of the very popular Pimsleur method of learning languages). I don’t depend on this series to actually teach M Chinese or French since a live speaker is a far better method, but I do use it to reinforce what I am already teaching him. Many of the foreign language products available right now are frequently made overseas and lack the style, sensibility, and production quality of children’s products developed in the West. (I have several other DVD sets purchased in the US and overseas.) Little Pim is a great choice in the latter group of products.

Highly recommended for children under 5.



How to fix public education… September 7, 2011

Filed under: Education,Homeschooling — lifeatwarpspeed @ 8:00 am
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The Single Best Idea for Reforming K-12 Education: Part 2 – Forbes.

The Single Best Idea for Reforming K-12 Education – Forbes.

When I look at this picture from 1960 from classroom and think about the modern day classroom, things sure look very similar. Some things have changed for the better, and yet a lot has stayed quite the same. It speaks to me about all that is wrong with public education. I just read this interesting article in Forbes (Parts 1 & 2 linked above) entitled “The Single Best Idea for Reforming K-12 Education” by Steve Denning.

I found his critique of the modern public school system as a failure of factory model of management fairly compelling. I wholeheartedly agree with his analogy and analysis. On the surface, it seems to me that in trying to educate the masses, we are forced to use methodologies that emphasize scalability, economies of scale, mass production, efficiency, and standardization. However, in the end, we seem to agree nationwide that we are churning out a fairly poor product for all this work and effort. It is true that there are the exceptional schools and exceptional students, but if we are looking at this broadly, I truly question whether or not we are producing thoughtful, contributing, productive members of our society. Sadly, I don’t believe that we do a very good job of that at all.

I found his argument for the solution to be inspiring. Denning writes : “The goal needs to shift from one of making a system that teaches children a curriculum more efficiently to one of making the system more effective by inspiring lifelong learning in students, so that they are able to have full and productive lives in a rapidly shifting economy.” This is exactly the sentiment that I hear echoed and championed by many homeschooling families who recognize the current system is failing their children.

As a homeschooling mom of my nearly 3 year old, I do see my role as his parent and teacher to enable and inspire my son in embracing the idea of lifelong learning. Although homeschooling is most definitely not scalable, it is highly individual to the learner. It is an educational choice that does fundamentally work on a daily basis to inspire the desire to learn and instill the ownership of that process with the student. The responsibility of that job is sometimes quite overwhelming to contemplate. Yet when I look at my son and the sheer delight he has in mastery of skills like mastering counting and reading numerals to 100 this week, I can not even begin to describe how immensely rewarding it is to be his companion and guide on his learning journey.

I recall how much I suffered and literally felt tortured by learning phonics because it did not come easily to me as a non-English speaking child. It is a miracle that I became a voracious reader. I am so glad that for my son all of this is such an enjoyable and came so naturally for him (more in later posts on how I went about teaching a baby/toddler to read). He finds the world to be such a delightful place that is full of math and language everywhere he goes.

The closest that I see that being reached in the public education venue is through a blend of online education with classroom teacher/proctor/mentors. I am intrigued by the idea of being able to use technology to tap into master teachers and stellar, engaging, and evolving curriculum like K12 ( instead of using multitudes of teachers that are expected to be a jack of all trades yet a master of none. I like the idea of having teachers in the classroom as well to help guide that journey and allow the flexibility of a student to go at their own pace and also to pursue deeper learning. It would be a totally new way of seeing how the educational process could be more fluid, mastery based, individualized, and student focused and driven. An experiment is currently underway in the first K12 charter high school in San Francisco. It will be very interesting to see how this unfolds.

So what do you think about Denning’s solution about public education? What do you see that is working in public education that prepares our children to be highly functioning members of a world that is increasingly complex, knowledge based and dynamic?



Preschool University Apps – Free August 31, 2011

Filed under: Early Elementary,Education,Kids,Preschool — lifeatwarpspeed @ 8:00 am
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ABC SPELLING MAGIC Short Vowel Words for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad on the iTunes App Store.

Whenever I see an app from Preschool University for free, I download it right away. They generally put out pretty good quality language arts apps. ABC Spelling 1 app (linked above) is about learning to spell 3 letter short vowel words. I like that you can adjust difficulty levels by turning phonetic sound hints on or off and toggling from 3 letter display or offering the entire alphabet to select from. The words are grouped by vowel sounds which is great if you are working on a specific vowel. There is also a shuffle feature which mixes up the spelling practice.

I highly recommend any of their spelling, phonics or reading apps. Click through to their developer page to see their library of apps. There is a wide variety available for free. For Spanish learners, I did notice a few free apps now, but I can’t comment on how good those apps are.

Have fun helping your young learners become great readers!



Review: Waiting for “Superman” August 25, 2011

Filed under: Education,Homeschooling,Parenting,TV & Movies — lifeatwarpspeed @ 11:30 am
Tags: , , , Waiting for “Superman”: Geoffrey Canada, Michelle Rhee, Davis Guggenheim: Movies & TV.

I finally had a chance to watch this film yesterday. I highly recommend this film if you haven’t seen it. It will make you think a lot about the state of education in the United States and about your own family if you have children. Even if you don’t have kids, you are a stakeholder in the educational system simply being a citizen since we are all impacted by how well we educate our country’s future.

A lot of thoughts come to mind. My heart simply aches over the painful dilemma of these families who are trapped in an educational system that simply doesn’t work. For the alternative solutions via charter and vouchers, there just simply isn’t enough to go around to fulfill the immense and overwhelming need that is out there.

As a mom, I completely understand the desire to provide the best education and all the opportunities you can for your child. This is why the pretty good, better, and best school districts keep going in that direction since people mortgage themselves in order to buy homes to live in those districts. This is also why people with children are fleeing the school districts in San Francisco and Oakland for alternative schooling options.

If you know me IRL, you know that I read a lot of public policy and education books. I am very interested and passionate about education even though I am not a professional educator. I try to stay current on the state of public education. Quite honestly, it is a pretty depressing scene. I greatly appreciate the efforts of those people like Michelle Rhee who are working their hardest to change what seems to be an impossible situation. I really admire Michelle Rhee and was disappointed to see a lot of her efforts unraveling. I have very little love for teachers’ unions even though I greatly value teachers. I am not a supporter of teacher tenure which will probably make a lot of people mad that I said that. I believe seismic change must happen quickly. All the sacred cows of education need to be on the proverbial sacrificial block.

To be honest, as much as I am passionate about educational reform, I don’t believe that the current system will serve my son well. So, our family is choosing to opt out of the system and go the homeschooling route for our son. Homeschooling is a fast-growing movement with more than 2 million students in the US. It will likely always be a minority in the educational community, but it will exist and is a vibrant and diverse community.

We have been homeschooling in one form or another since my son was a baby. It has become increasingly apparent to us that public school would be a huge step backward, and his needs would be lost in a class of 25 or more K students. My not quite 3 year old son already has a reading vocabulary of over 500 words, mastered phonics over a year ago, counts to 100, understands quantity, taught himself to write his letters and numbers a few weeks ago, and is currently working on single digit addition and subtraction. Where will he be in two years from now? Who knows? I have no idea where this journey is going, but I do know he won’t be a good fit for Kindergarten.

I know now that my current calling is to educate and nurture our son on his educational journey. This is a huge sacrifice for our family since it means giving up any income that I used to generate. It means a lot of work to prepare lessons, modify curriculum for a young learner, and a lot less time for myself. I am passionately committed to continuing to nurture his gifts, his passion and love for learning and to be able to go at his pace even when it is a lot faster than I want to go. Everyday is a new experience for the two of us on this journey. Especially as I continually learn to be flexible and to release my carefully laid out plans.

I imagine people might ask me whether or not I feel guilty about choosing to opt out of the system and not working from within to reform. To be honest, I don’t. I feel that we are making the best and right choice available for our family and our son’s needs which is the only thing that anyone can expect any parent to do.



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