Filing Taxes

Sitting down to do my taxes. I love doing them!  Working with freshly sharpened pencils, rubbing the rectangular, pink eraser in between my thumb and forefinger as I calculate in my head, the shuffling of papers.  There is also such a feeling of accomplishment when you can navigate all the government and accountant wording. I love Math, I love puzzles and I love not having to pay anyone nor any software company to do them for me.

My dad used to do them until 1998. That year, the hubs and I bought our 1st house and I decided to try my hand at it.  I don’t know why I never tried before, when our tax life was much simpler.  Starting with the first year that we itemized, moved from one state to another and worked in one state while living in another one, would seem daunting, but I was up for the challenge.  I had the instruction manual and my dad to call when I had questions.  I was nervous when I finished and handed our forms to my dad to check my numbers.  However, I got it all right and I was hooked!

Years later, when we no longer owned a home and our credit union offered access to an online tax company, we gave it a try.  It was free, it was kind of easy and it saved all the info I inputted so I didn’t have to go searching for last years tax forms when it came time to do this year’s filing.  However, it didn’t turn out to be free, and each year the price kept going up, so I went back to the instruction manual, paper forms and a pencil.

How do your taxes get done?

  1. Do them yourself on paper.
  2. Do them yourself with software.
  3. A family member does them.
  4. An accountant does them.
  5. Go to a tax preparation company, such as H&R Block.

Life of Fred – Homeschool Happens Everywhere

This is what homeschool looks like.

I’m grateful for all the wonderful ideas my friend Julie @ Creekside Learning has given me to homeschool B.  When she told me about the Life of Fred Math curriculum, it sounded like something that was right up B’s alley and we gave it a try in the Fall of 2012.  B really loves his Fred!  He does not have to be told twice to work on Math and he does it independently.  :o)  A year and a half later and we’re still happy with Fred.

B likes to settle into a niche, under a blanket or find a friend when he does Life of Fred and I posted several pictures of him on Instagram last year.  Julie suggested that I do a blog post, compiling all of these Life of Fred pictures and I knew she’d come up with another good idea.  Of course, then my muddled brain completely forgot about it.  Well, it’s almost a year later and I just remembered, so I’m sitting down to post some of these pix before I forget again!

Life of Fred Collage

Getting B To Tell Time Faster

Telling time.  Have you had problems with this in your home?  We sure have.  Every time I would spend time on the clock with B, it would take him a long time to tell me what time it was.  Then I figured out was going on.  He had the 1 – 12 hour placements down pat, but he was struggling with the minutes.  No matter if the minute hand was at 10 or 50, he would start at the top of the clock and count all the way around, “5, 10, 15, 20…” until he got to where the minute hand was.  So last month, I cut up a cereal, wrote increments of “5” on the pieces and taped them to the back of the clock in our family room.

What a difference this has made!  I don’t need to know that it’s 9:18; I just ask him to round to the nearest 5 and tell me what time it is (9:20 in this picture).  I ask him what time it is several times a day.  Instead of groaning, he looks right up, tell me the time happily, and then goes back to what he was doing.  :o)  Once we feel he’s really got them down and knows what increment of 5 each of the 12 numbers on the clock represent, I’ll start removing the cereal box pieces, one by one.  The last ones to go will be the 15, 30 and 45.

We tried this once before, last year.  I bought a clock kit at Michaels and B and his Nana sewed it together.  Then I added the extra 5 – 55 pieces and we hung it up in the family room on the wall over the desk.  Within a week, the cats had jumped off the desk to the clock and destroyed it!  *sigh*  They can’t get at this clock.  The bottom of the clock is over my head and there is no furniture under it from which to jump.  Thankfully, they’ve shown the clock additions no interest whatsoever.

BTW, did you notice something wrong with our family room clock?  Look at the 4.  In Roman numerals, 4 is IV, not IIII.  We have had this clock for 6 years and neither the hubs nor I noticed this before I took the clock down to add the the cereal box letters!  LOL  We just knew that that place value was the 4th hour, so we never bothered to look closely enough.  Now we know why we got the clock so cheap!  ;o)

The "Beauty" of Homeschooling ;o)

I walked into B’s bathroom to put a new box of tissue in there and found his Math curriculum (his current Life of Fred book, the copybook where he answers the questions and a pencil inside).  I went looking for him and asked why they were in there.  He said he had to poop while in the middle of his lesson, so he brought it into the bathroom with him because he didn’t want to put it down.  He really enjoys Life of Fred and I’m so glad Julie at Creekside Learning told me about it!

This picture sums up to me, the “beauty” of homeschooling – that learning can be and is done anywhere, everywhere.  Even in the bathroom.  :o)

Life of Fred – Our Math Curriculum

This is where B does his Math.

We chose Life of Fred this year for B’s Math curriculum.  What I love about Life of Fred is that it is independent study for B.  He reads a chapter or 2 by himself on the days we do Math and answers the questions at the end of each chapter.  Even though he is in 4th grade, we followed the suggestion of the creators and had B start from the 1st Life of Fred book to ensure he is building on all concepts.  My goal is for him to complete the 1st 10 books before we start 5th grade; he started the 3rd book, Cats, earlier this week.  

loves reading about Fred’s life and the adventures he and his doll, Kingie, have.  He’s especially impressed with how well Kingie can draw.  ;o)  I enjoy hearing B laugh as he reads and several times, he’s stopped to share with me something funny or amazing.

The other means of teaching Math the past 2 years (Math-U-See and workbooks) have not been successful with B, with the exception of flash cards.  At least he’s interested in this form of Math lesson and I can’t wait to see where he’ll be in knowledge, understanding and application at the end of the year.  I’m very pleased so far by reviewing his answers at the end of each chapter.  :o)

Math Worries

I’ve been struggling with B’s Math curriculum the past 2 years.  I did my research in 2010 and I thought Math-U-See was the right choice for B’s personality and learning styles.  He loves LEGOS and is so creative with them that I assumed Math with bricks would click.  I was wrong.  I know that multiplication is taught to 3rd graders in my county.  And, although I have heard a couple of public school parents struggle with getting their 3rd graders to understand multiplication, I was still struggling with B over addition!  How was I going to get to multiplication if I couldn’t even get through addition, let alone subtraction?!

In March, I had a rare day off from work that coincided with an informal get together in my homeschooling group.  The talk of Math came up and a friend of mine spoke about where her 3rd grade daughters was.  She said that when she started homeschooling this past Fall (her daughter had been to public school for kindergarten – 2nd grade), she realized that she had to start over and reteach her daughter principals of addition and subtraction and had not yet gotten to multiplication.  That made me feel better, that B was not odd man out.  It reminded me of so many homeschool authors I’d read that talked about when the public schools say kids should be reading – kindergarten and 1st grade.  These authors, like me, struggled with their boys over reading and finally stopped.  They read to their boys, instead, and all of the boys picked up reading by choice between the ages of 7 and 9.  And that is exactly what happened with B and reading.

When I mentioned my Math worries to my brother, he asked if I’d tried flash cards b/c they were used to teach the 2 of us in school.  So, I went out and bought flash cards for addition, subtraction and multiplication.  And I have learned that B can do Math in his head and is a wiz at flash cards!  I thought he wasn’t getting Math b/c he struggled with worksheets.  It’s just that he isn’t a worksheet and show-your-work kinda kid!  Phew!  Flash cards are so much cheaper than a Math curriculum and I can create word problems and find some freebies online.

I also got a great tip from another homeschooling mom – Timez Attack by Big Brainz.  It’s a video game with timed Math problems.  B did some addition on it last week and was getting upset by the timer (too short, IMO) but still did well.  Today, I had him take the pre-test in multiplication.  Man did that upset B!  He had not even been exposed to multiplication before that.  He was stressed over the time and frustrated b/c he didn’t know “anything”.  Well, he got 10 out of 66 right and I know he came up with the correct answers for a few others but just didn’t get them typed in fast enough.  He was not happy when I pulled out the multiplication flash cards after that experience.  So, I got a pad of paper and a pencil out and went over the easier multiplication problems with him.

  1. Any number x 0 = 0
  2. Any number x 1 = that number
  3. Any number x 10 = that number with a 0 on the end
  4. And to boost his confidence, I threw in any number x 100 and any number x 1,000 and he was pretty impressed with himself that he could multiply something by 1,000.  And that’s exactly what I wanted – to bolster his confidence that hecould do multiplication.  If I’d put the times table in front of him for memorization, he would have been lost, frustrated and given up.
  5. 1 through 9 x 11 = 1 through 9 in the tens and ones column
  6. 10 x 11 (follow the principle in #3)
  7. 11 x 11 and 11 x 12 = memorization.  These were the only 2 answers he had to memorize today so he could handle that and he remembered them!
Just using the flash cards that worked with the above 7 situations, B was able to answer 104 flashcards correctly!  The other 65 flash cards that do not fall into the above 7 situations I didn’t show him.  We’ll cover those another time.  He and I are just so proud that he’s got over 60% of the multiplication table down in his 1st lesson!  After I put the cards away, I actually went over multiplying by 5s with him, verbally.  Even telling him some of my tricks.  For example: 8 x 5 seems daunting.  He can count by 5s eight times to get there or he can do 8 x 10 = 80 in his head quickly and then cut that in 2 to get 40 b/c 5 is half of 10.  If he can’t remember what 11 x 11 is, he can do 11 x 10 = 110 in his head and then just add another 11 to that.  But I’m sure he’ll work the numbers out in his head his way.  He was so proud to tell the hubs that he “…had a great 1st multiplication lesson today, Daddy!”  And I am thrilled to unlock another mystery of how his brain works.
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