My children and I have set sail on a cruise through the Panama Canal!  Although we make very few stops on our way from Miami to Los Angeles, we are most excited to traverse the distance between the two Americas.  It will be fun to see the locks and be able to say that we have been in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans on a ship in the same day.


It’s that time of year again when our travelling schedule begins to pick up and I have to start thinking about paring down our studies to the essentials (reading, writing, and math) while we are out and about.

McGuffey's Eclectic Readers 1.  Reading – I bring along a McGuffey’s Eclectic Reader and have my daughter read a lesson every day (or every other day).  This book is small, easy to pack, and consistently provides challenging material.  Although available for free through Google books, we prefer the hard copy and size isn’t that much of a consideration with this resource.

2.  Math – PDFs are our friends when it comes to taking math on the road.  Our main curriculum (Rightstart math) is just too cumbersome and has too many manipulatives for me to even remotely consider taking it with us.  In the past we have used Math Mammoth, but found it to be too dry for our taste.  Now, we use CSMP for some fun math time that is very portable.  I also save a copy of the suggested schedule which we follow rather closely.

3.  Writing – I type up our recollection of the day’s events in the evening.  My daughter narrates what she would like to remember and I embelish her retelling with a few things that I want to remember.  I have to set an alarm on the iPad to remind us to do this each day, but it is so worth it to make the effort; my daughter loves re-reading these accounts.

4 (Bonus).  Science – There is nothing to take or schedule in this subject area as science topics are all around us, especially when traveling to a location that is markedly different from your own – plants, animals, rocks, trees, weather patterns, constellations, etc.  Inclusion of science into your day becomes even easier if you visit a science museum or a state/national park and utilize their resources (eg. junior ranger programs).

5 (Bonus).  Literature – When we are not too tired at the end of the day then I read from some books that are loaded onto my iPad, such as the Lang Fairy Tales, 50 Famous Stories, and Parables from Nature.



Math RiderMath Rider is a downloadable math facts game that is aimed at children working at around a second grade level with a solid grasp of addition concepts and on up.  The founder of the company reports that he came up with the idea of a math practice game when his own daughter was struggling in school.  He points out that being comfortable with math facts in all 4 operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) is the solid foundation that is needed for higher level math.  Math Rider is based on the principle of self retrieval, meaning that the student is self-testing and that the program adapts to their needs so that they practice retrieving the information that they are weakest on, leading to mastery.

Math Rider DowloadThe Math Rider program itself is a download, that includes free updates for life.  Downloading the program and validating the registration key was very easy and straightforward on my Windows based system (Mac OS is supported as well).  You then set up accounts for the child(ren) that will be using the program and up to 8 children are allowed on a single license.

Before each new quest begins you have two choices to make: which operation to practice and the level of difficulty.  Each operation has 4 difficulty levels.  Depending on your selections the story line changes and the rewards for completing a quest are different as well, hopefully providing your child an incentive to keep on playing and practicing their math facts.  After the selections are made your child then sets out on their quest and is introduced to the story line which explains the “why” behind the quest.  Following this short story your child begins their “ride” that consists of 30 math factsand is generally completed in less than 3 minutes time.  After their ride is over they can see how many points they have earned in their quest (a time bonus may be given) and they can view a map that show how far they have ridden, how many points are still needed before the quest is finished, and their mastery level.

My daughter is currently working at about a second grade level and we began with easy addition and then moved on to easy subtraction.  Each day I would have her do two or three runs on her quest.  I found that if I asked her to do more than that then she would begin to make more mistakes than usual.  When she was doing well (as with easy addition) then she loved the game and happily kept playing until she achieved 100% mastery.  However, we just began easy subtraction and it is clear that she only has a little more than half of her math facts down.  Now she is somewhat hesitant to play the game and I need to always encourage her and point out the incremental gains that she is making.

There are also several tools that the parent and the child can use to see what facts need to be worked on.  Immediately after every run there is a bar graph showing in color-coded fashion which equations were correct, which were missed, and those that were not quickly answered.  If you hover yois ur mouse over the bar then you can see what the equation was and by clicking on that bar the child is shown a pictorial representation (using colored spheres) of the equation.  You can also pull up a grid (shown in the YouTube video below) that shows all of the math facts that your child has attempted.  These facts are also color coded depending on how well your child has handled them and each operation displays the top 5 facts that are causing your child problems.

Overall,I believe that my daughter really enjoys this game and we plan to continue using it on a daily basis.  The game is certainly more enjoyable then timing her with math fact drill sheets, and I have certainly seen her ability to recall addition facts improve tremendously in the few weeks that we have reviewed this program.

Price: $47


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Every now and then I freak out because it appears that my daughter just doesn’t enjoy writing.  We do copywork and dictation, and she does very well with both of these disciplines.  She just hates writing anything original.  Maybe not hates…but she claims that she has nothing to write about.  This is my girl that will happily retell every episode of Disney’s Jake and the Pirates (which we watch in spanish) in minute detail.  She can also narrate long stories that we have had had as a read-aloud and would love to regale you with some jokes that she knows…for at least an hour.

But, writing?  I occasionally get notes from her explaining why she didn’t want help with her spelling lesson (afraid she wouldn’t get the mint as a prize for a job well done) or a written apology for disobeying one of our family rules.  If I suggest that she write down a fantastic story that she just told though, she doesn’t see the point.

Now I know that since I loosely follow TWTM philospophy then this should be no big deal at all.  Young children are not meant to write original content we are told.  They do not have enough life experience and they should only be working on the mechanics of writing (hence the copywork and dictation).  But, every now and then, I read about children that are writing tons of creative stories in their free time and there is always the thought of the public school kid with their daily journal writing.

Then I remember that I disliked writing (intensely) and all of that public school journal writing inflamed my dispassion for putting pencil to paper.  And, if I’m lucky, I stumble upon an article written by one that publishes a writing curricula that tells me it’s okay for children under 10 to not want to write.  And then I feel fine for another couple of months.  🙂