Self-directed Learner Mid-year Mobility Check


Mobility is a beautiful thing.

Physical, social, or intellectual

Being able to move, to be fluid, to progress.

To change.

To choose.

To feel the power and joy of moving, reaching, stretching, walking, growing.

Last week I lost my physical mobility for a few days after overdoing it with house and yardwork, party prep, high heat, and too much fun with dancing on the patio in bare feet. My foot screamed at me with redness, swelling and inability to bear weight. Pierre dug out the crutches from my injury of a few years back. My arms and wrists yelled at me as I tried to use the crutches.  There was so much to do, I needed to push, push, push.

But my body was telling me to rest, to ice, to elevate.

To reflect and regroup.  

Read moreSelf-directed Learner Mid-year Mobility Check

7 Ways to Use Math Everyday: Tips and Resources

7 wasy to use math everyday and make math meaningful and fun: Tips and Resources

7 wasy to use math everyday and make math meaningful and fun: Tips and Resources

Q: How did you approach math with Dale? What programs did you and your husband want Dale to use as the math became more advanced?

A: Find ways to use math every day and make math meaningful and fun!

Here is a sampling of tips, activities, and resources we used while Dale was growing up and when we were homeschooling.

7 Ways to Use Math Every Day: Tips and Resources to Make Math Meaningful and Fun

Avoiding Math Anxiety

Pierre, Dale’s dad,  and I liked to approach math as a problem-solving process and a puzzle. Pierre is much quicker at math and more advanced and accurate in math skills than me. So he brought the advanced knowledge and application in careers to the table.

One of my saving graces is being curious about learning new topics and viewing learning, difficult learning, as a challenge that helps me grow rather than a yoke of shame about what I’m not naturally good at. 

My self-esteem wasn’t ruined because I’m much better at grasping the concepts than performing calculations and getting the right answer. Thank goodness my high school calculus teacher gave credit for showing my work.  I added my sense of enjoying math even though I’m no whiz.

Over the years I’ve worked with many people with math phobia and knew we didn’t want to create math fear.

I’d seen that using math in real, meaningful situations to accomplish something a child wants to do is extremely helpful for cementing concepts and connections, sometimes allowing the aha moment for something a child struggles with on paper or pencil. Even before we began homeschooling my husband and I tried to do lots of hands on things with Dale that used math. We didn’t spoil the fun with a lecture, but we might notice and talk about the math involved. We tried to make math fun, a game and social which had worked for me when math was difficult to grasp. I have very fond memories of making art and silliness out of calculus homework with my wonderful group of nerdy high school friends.

We are nerdy. Kind of like characters in Big Bang. We always enjoyed doing activities together, being curious about how things work and learning new things for fun. My husband and I enjoy math and the math and science embedded in many activities of everyday life. We gave Dale numerous positive natural, applied math experiences before looking at math from a formal learning standpoint.

7 Ways to Use Math Every day:

Art:  Drawing, Painting, sculpting. Proportion, geometry, there are so many ways math is used in making art. When planning an art project there are often many math applications that will be needed, Dale framed and sold his photos, figuring out proportions for displays and what would look good.

Carpentry: Dale helped his Dad build a playhouse in the backyard that we wanted, build small projects like a birdhouse, make gifts out of wood. Of course, this required measuring, fractions, computing as needed to calculate materials needs and using algebra concepts.

Cooking and Gardening: We cooked and altered recipes every day, halving, multiplying, lots of different forms of measuring and conversions from metric to our system, depending on the recipe we were using. Weighing, measuring, planning, bed sizes, nutrient needs, harvest.

Games: We used logic puzzles, strategy games and brain teasers for fun. We had puzzle and books and games that sat near the dining table, and we often played/solved as a family or more often, Dale and Pierre as an activity after or even with dinner. Pierre is not a big talker, so he loved to play games at a meal. Pierre liked to play mental math games when they were driving in the car together.

Money: Using real money to pay at the store, make change, pay bills, calculate percentages and discounts, figuring out savings for a wanted item, budgeting, learning about finance and investing and interest. Since we often did not have enough money for everything we wanted, Dale became interested in earning money for things he wanted that we couldn’t afford. He used his math skills when calculating profits/loss, materials costs, how much he should charge and keeping track of his earnings.

Music: Getting your body dancing and fingers playing an instrument is a great way help the brain develop pathways that will assist math understanding.  Rhythm, tempo, note values, harmonics.

Quilting and Sewing: I enjoy quilting, and we used fabric to make gifts or things we needed. Dale decided he wanted to make a quilt for his room. Sewing and quilting are fun, creative and offer lots of opportunities for using geometry, fractions, measurement and algebra.

Tips on a Few Math Resources We Used


Math Curriculum:

When Dale was in fourth grade, at about 9 -10 years old, he attended a small private school for one year where they used CPM’s Foundations of Algebra Course. Dale loved the application, activity driven approach. The lessons gave the big picture reasons for WHY you would want to learn a concept, problems related to real world examples and incorporated group talking, discovering and playing with concepts.

Since Dale loved it and wanted to continue, when we began homeschooling we went to a used curriculum shop to find the books. We also found the website and resources. The tricky part was creating a group of learners interested in learning pre- algebra and then algebra and get together on a regular basis since this particular curriculum was devised to have kids work together and discuss as they learned concepts. Dale liked the social aspect but got frustrated when the other kids weren’t as interested in moving through the curriculum. When Dale wanted to learn something he liked to go as fast as he could. We ended up skipping the group and having me act as the partner in the activities. I  had to work hard to allow him to discover and not turn into a teacher.

I offered a math games group one summer and invited kids interested in math to come to the house for a couple of hours once a week. The Family Math Books are a great resource.

We looked for more programs with a focus on concepts and real world application. My husband and Dale liked the Harold Jacobs books Geometry, and Math, a Human Endeavor. Here is a link to some reviews I saw. 

Key Curriculum Press has a one-concept-at-a-time format for the series of workbooks, called “Keys to “  that Dale liked for review and that I used with students I tutored.

One homeschool Dad in our group offered a Trigonometry class and a Calculus class for a small group of kids. Since his children were participating in a school-based homeschooling program, he used text books provided by the school provided and added lots of discussion and hands-on, application activities that made it interesting to Dale. Dale enjoyed the social time and snacks that were part of the math group.


I’ve already written about how much I love museums.  And making tricky math (or science) concepts visible and interactive is something museums do well. The Lawrence Hall of Science, the Exploratorium,  The Tech and the MIT Museum and Boston Science Museum the had outstanding displays for stimulating math learning.


Other people are a wonderful resource!

It is good to remember that our child’s approach to learning may at times be very different than our own, and there is nothing wrong with seeking outside help or searching for the right kind of teacher that is a good fit for an individual.

My husband is skilled in math/engineering and very accurate and meticulous. It wasn’t always easy for him to accept that Dale was not as strong as his dad in this area and was not always as patient as he could be. Pierre prefers to learn on his own from reading a book. He has no trouble grasping even very spatial concepts from reading a text and viewing a two-dimensional diagram. Dale learns more with wrestling with concepts in a social setting, talking, and often needs to see or work with physical objects.

One homeschool Dad in our group offered a Trigonometry class and a Calculus class for a small group of kids. Since his children were participating in a school-based homeschooling program, he based his lessons around the text books the school provided. He added lots of discussion and hands-on application activities that made it interesting to Dale. Dale always enjoyed the social time and snacks that were part of the math group.

Even though Pierre had the knowledge, Dale preferred going to the other homeschool dad for the advanced math instruction because it was more fun for him and suited his learning style better. 

Remember to play to your strengths, whatever they may be. When Dale wanted to take the exams, called the SAT and ACT, for applying to college, he and Pierre went to a bookstore and selected some test preparation books. Pierre was a perfect SAT math scored kind of guy. Dale was not. Dale worked through the books, asking for help when needed, and took the practice tests. He took both exams and found that he performed better on the ACT. He decided to maximize his score on that exam.

Math Mantra and Growth Mindset


Math is FUN! I can learn what I want to and need to if I am willing to do the work.

It helped a lot that the first homeschool conference I attended hosted a a session with a panel of grown unschoolers and their parents. It was amazing how many math worry questions were asked. One mom told a story of her child doing no formal, traditional math until age 16 when he became fascinated with a science topic and wanted to enroll in a science program that had several higher math pre-requisites. He was ready; he had his interest and a goal. He packed 12 years of traditional public school math into four weeks of intense learning and passed the entrance test to be allowed into the program. Okay, I thought, we can do this.

Take Aways:

  • Reduce anxiety
  • Use math naturally in many ways each day
  • Lead with interest and curiosity
  • Explore lots of creative options and resources
  • Approach math as a wide-open learning adventure 


Over to you: What resources do you love for learning and enjoying math? Please add your ideas in the comments!


Some other people’s articles you might find interesting:

100 Natural Math Activities

The Benefits of Natural Math

12 Motivation Makers

12 Motivation Makers at

We can’t make someone else, like our kids, be motivated and we can’t motivate them.  We can help them develop their own intrinsic motivation muscle that they can call on to build confidence and independence.  We might also want to strengthen our own motivation muscle. So what can we do?

We can work on creating the conditions that make intrinsic motivation grow and flourish. Banish the motivation killers, and plan to put these motivation makers in their place.


12 Motivation Makers

1.  A full Cup:  Good health habits for hydration, nutrition, exercise, rest, play and sleep.

2.  Mindsets: Growth – I can learn and do what I put effort into and overcome obstacles, and Yes I will do it!

3.  Choice-Agency-Options: I have options to pursue my interests and the power to choose. I can decide what to try. 

4.  Meaning and Purpose: I know exactly what I want to do and why I want to do it! I set my goals.

5.  Clarity and Focus: I know what step to take next and when I will take it. I know my timeline for meeting my goals.

6.  Mastery/Challenge:  Finding the Goldilocks just right  level of challenge in your zpd (zone of proximal development) and  “getting it,” whatever it might be. Nobody feels motivated if bored by things that are too easy or overwhelmed by difficulty.

7.  Movement:  Plenty of  daily physical movement and monitoring/reflecting so you can appreciate your progress.

8.  Creativity Culture: Encourages trying new things, making things, arts, cross connections. 

9.  Meditation/Nature: Accessing a renewable source of stillness, energy, inspiration and grounding. ( You will find me with my feet in the grass and heading into my garden every morning. What can you do?)

10. Community:  I am not alone and I know folks who care when I say, “Look what I’m working on, what are you working on.”

11. Mentoring/Support:  I can  ask  ________________  for help and/or feedback.

12. Completion and Celebration: I did it! I met my goals. I accomplished ___________. I learned ________.


12 Motivation Makers pinterest pinHow do you create the conditions for motivation makers in your family?


12 Motivation Killers

I woke up at 4 am dreaming, thinking, musing about motivation.

“How do you motivate your kids?” is one of the most common questions I hear.

YOU don’t.  You encourage and support them to discover their own, intrinsic motivation. And you stay away from the very things that send intrinsic motivation into hiding.

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What kills our motivation? Or our kid’s motivation? Here are 12 things that are motivation killers.

So? The problem is they are often misused as ways to increase motivation.

12 Motivation Killers

1. Rewards – “if you do __________ I’ll give you __________”

2. Punishments ‘If you don’t do ____________, you ___________”

3. Lack of agency or choice ” This is how it must be done”

4. Lack of meaning -” what’s the point?”

5. No personal goals, purpose or connection – “why should I? What’s in it for me?” “Because I said so,

7. Mindset – “I’m not good at..”, I’m not good enough, What if I make a mistake?

8. Judgements/Grades/ Comparison –  ” D+, that’s not how ______,  Why can’t you be like____?”

9. Hopelessness ,Challenge beyond individual ZPD ( zone of proximal development the sweet spot for learning)

10. Overwhelm, unable to see next step – “I’m stuck, I don’t know what to do”

11. Feeling manipulated and controlled ” You want me to do this..,

12. Stress: time pressure, poverty, illness, emotional issues, external realities  – this can present in so many different ways, lack of self-care, self-harm, illness, being shut down, bellingerence, apathy….


What if you are struggling with your own motivation?

We will all face challenges. Step back, reflect and make a conscious choice to tap into what matters to you.

Ask hard questions, try new things, do what matters.

Choose and commit to getting rid of motivation killers, rediscovering your purpose and doing what needs to be done.

You’ll feel better.

Start now.


What do you do to help yourself or your kids find their motivation?