December 3, 2015

A Day in the Life: A Homeschool Family Vlog Day

We decided to try something new.  This past Monday, I carried my video camera around with me all day and made a video log (vlog) of our day, which I posted to YouTube.  The boys had fun being part of it.  I think we're going to try to make it a regular thing.  I just need to make sure the boys don't catch me on camera sitting around in my PJs!

If you enjoyed this peek into our lives, stick around!  Follow me here on the blog, then head over to YouTube and subscribe to our channel.  All comments are welcome as well.  Have a great day!

October 14, 2015

Are You Gonna Eat That?

Here's a little fun the boys and I had exploring a bit of Japanese culture by trying snacks and candies straight from Japan.  After which, they did some research about Japan to round off our study.  Enjoy!

Feel free to comment on the video or on this blog post and let us know what country we should try foods from next, or give us other ideas for unique food challenges. 

June 1, 2015

Home School Curriculum Sale 2015


Facebook Curriculum Sale

Ding!  Dong!  The school year's gone!  It's time to buy curriculum.  Ding!  Dong!  The long school year is gone!  (Did you read that to the tune of Ding! Dong! The witch is dead!  from the Wizard of Oz?)

I don't know about you, but I've already planned out which curricula we'll be using this coming school year.  Now, the task is to find what we need for as little cost as possible.  Usually, I take to the internet to compare prices and get a sense of what those items are going for, then, in June, I head to our local Homeschool Curriculum Sale that's held each year at the Family Life Network building.  If you are in the Western New York area, you should definitely check it out. 

Last year, I rented a table at the sale and attempted to sell my used curricula.  I did sell some but still had quite a bit left over, so I planned to attend again this year.  Sadly, when I went to register for the event, all the tables were booked.  

A homeschool blogger I follow on Facebook held a curriculum sale through her blog's Facebook page, and she sold everything she listed.  I thought it was an ingenious idea!  So, with credit given where credit is due, I thank Ben & Me Blog for the idea, and I introduce to you my first ever...

Online Home School Curriculum Sale!

Clicking the link above will take you to the event on my blog's Facebook page (p.s., feel free to 'like' my page while you're there).  All instructions for purchasing curricula are written on that page.  If you have any questions, please feel free to message me on Facebook or comment here, and I'll gladly help you out.  I'm pricing all items well below retail, so you're getting an awesome deal!  And you don't even need to leave the comfort of your living room.  


May 25, 2015

Five Rules for Social Media Etiquette

Social media - an awesome gathering of people via the internet where free speech abounds.  Sometimes to the detriment of relationships, both digital and IRL.  (That's In Real Life, for those of you who aren't up on your internet lingo).

Follow these five rules for social media etiquette, and your friends and family will enjoy your internet presence for years to come, or, at least until some other form of communication becomes popular.  Telepathy, anyone?

#1 - Never correct grammar on posts not made by you.  No matter how much it causes your angina to act up, do not do it!  Nobody appreciates it.  Even if you try to pass off your grammar OCD as a joke, nobody will be fooled.  They might block you from viewing their future posts, though.

#2 - Post food pics.  But only about once a month.  Admit it - you like seeing photos of a succulent, well-plated, 4-star restaurant meal.  For some people, it inspires us to get cooking and try to one-up our friends' photos.  For others, is allows us to live vicariously through our friends.  We can imagine we're eating a $20 steak as we bite into our Mickey D's Filet-o-Fish sandwich.  However, if a friend posts a food pic every day, or even several times a week, we're going to get sick of them.  Unless they have a career as a Foodie (a.k.a., an awesome cook/chef who also blogs their recipes), nobody wants to see their meals every single day.  Stun us once a month with Olive Garden bread sticks or fresh-baked cookies that came out perfectly plump.  Because, honestly, if my cupboards are bare this week, and I'm eating tuna sandwiches for lunch every day, I'm gonna want to punch that person if I see one more photo of a gourmet pizza or pretty pink homemade ice cream.

#3 - Never post anything political, religious, having to do with parenting, or anything that could be construed as falling into one of those three categories.  In this day and age, people are not grownup enough to handle dissenting opinions on anything.  Someone will disagree with what you've posted, and you'll hear about it. Your relationship with that person will never be the same again.  Even if it's someone you considered to be a close friend in real life. Whether they comment on your post with veiled venom, or they private message you and let it rip about how awful a person they think you are, or they simply gossip about you to others and eventually you find out that someone you've barely ever spoken to is telling other people how awful a person they think you are.  That's how it works these days.  It resembles a middle school playground.  When someone disagrees with something you've said, or if they feel hurt by something you've said, instead of coming to you and talking about it in a mature way so that you might maintain a healthy relationship, they do one of two things:  either they'll blow up and say some colorful, bitter things to you (you know, kind of like a school yard brawl), or they'll talk to others in the corner of the playground, and they'll all point at you and whisper, and you'll know they're not saying nice things about you, but you can't ever defend yourself, and now, instead of that one person being upset with you, there are 10 more people upset with you, and they don't even know why.  All they know is someone told them they should be.  So, avoid the juvenile kerfuffle altogether by only posting cute kitten memes.  Or musings on the weather.  Or pics of your dinner (but be sure to see rule #2 first).

#4 - Stop sending game requests!  I know you love that Farm Fanatic game.  I know you want people to send you seeds for your new field or coins so you can buy a new barn.  Some of us may even play the same game.  The problem, though, is that most people don't play the game.  Or any other game.  A good 95% of the people on your friends list don't play games on social media.  When we log on to our social media account, and we see that little red notification telling us that someone has interacted with us, we get a twinge of excitement.  Someone has sent us a message.  Or someone has posted on our wall.  Or someone has commented on a post we made.  Whatever it is, we get excited.  As ridiculous as it is, we feel it's proof that someone likes us!  They really like us!  But finding out that little red notification was only a game request makes our hearts drop just a little.  It's silly.  We know.  But, please stop giving us false hope!  Eventually, we get annoyed with you and may even block you.  Or, if you keep on, we may even unfriend you.  Which, if you think about it, won't really bother you at all, and you may never even notice it was done, but it's still not something we want to do.  We like seeing your posts that have nothing to do with games or apps.  So, please stop.  Put an end to game requests.  Do it!

#5 - Stop sharing memes or posts that attempt to shame people into some sort of action.  For example:  "REPOST THIS IF YOU'RE NOT ASHAMED OF GOD!"  First of all, see rule #3.  Secondly, I never repost obnoxious, shaming memes, because they're obnoxious and shaming, and making my friends and family feel irritated and shamed isn't something I would like to do.  Finally, if I choose not to repost your obnoxious, shaming meme, it in NO WAY means or implies that I am ashamed of God.  I'm not ashamed of God.  And I'm pretty sure God doesn't care one little bit whether or not I share your meme.  I am, however, ashamed for you that you would stoop to such a level of ridiculousness and probably didn't stop to think about what you were even sharing.  Please stop.

How do I know these five rules hold true?  Because I'm guilty of breaking nearly all of them.  I'm not popular.

So, I'm doing my part to keep your friends from turning your name into a verb.  Or a four letter word. You'll thank me one day.

What other social media etiquette rules have you encountered?  Which ones are you guilty of breaking?

May 20, 2015

Book Burst: Creative Writing

If your kids are anything like mine, putting a blank piece of paper and a pencil in front of them and asking them to make up a creative story or to write a report on a book they’ve read is like handing them a worm and asking them to eat it.  It’s torture for them.  And it brings tears and temper tantrums.  For that reason, I decided to come up with a new, fun way for my boys to both learn how to write a book report AND practice writing creative stories of their own.  Thus, Book Burst was born.  This exercise helped my boys enjoy writing, so I wanted to share it with you in hopes that your kids will benefit from it as well. 

Below are images of the Book Burst book report form.  The one on the left will take you to a jpeg image version (8.5x14 size), and the one on the right will take you to a Microsoft Word version, (8.5x14 size, but you can also choose 11x14) where you'll be able to edit the categories, if you'd like. 

Jpeg version
MS Word version
In this exercise, your child will choose and read a simple book.  We started with Golden Books.  As you and your child become more comfortable with this exercise, you can move on to more challenging books as you see fit.  This can easily be adapted for older kids, even into middle school, but choosing chapter books with a higher reading level.  But, for the purposes of this exercise, we’ll use Golden Books as our starting point.

Step 1:  Choose and read a book.

Step 2:  This is where the project got its name.  We’re going to “burst” the book open into its parts.  Go over the Book Burst page with your child.  You’ll notice 10 categories listed on each book spine. - title, characters, main character, setting, plot, six words, three important things, first sentence, last sentence, and moral of the story.

After reading the chosen book, your child will fill out the Book Burst page with information from his/her chosen book.  You’ll want to be sure your child understands what each category means.  I still occasionally need to remind my 12-year-old what setting, plot, and moral mean.  ‘Six words’ simply means for your child to write down six words from his/her chosen book that were new to him/her, or that he/she doesn’t remember the meaning of.  ‘Three important things’ is where your child will write three things that happened in the story that stood out as important.

Step 3:  Time to get creative!  We want our kids to be able to write stories of their own without it being a chore.  Using the Book Burst page as a prompt, your child will have all the building blocks for creating their new story.  

Using the characters, setting, six new words, and moral of the story that your child identified in the book he/she read, have them re-write the story into something completely different and new.  Be sure to emphasize that they're not just copying the story they read, and they're not just re-telling the story in their own words.  Instead, they're using the basic building blocks of that story to create a new story all their own (which is why they're not using the title, plot, three important things, or first/last sentences - these must all come from your child's imagination).

Turn the Pokey Little Puppy into a scary story.  Make the Little Engine that Could become a circus clown.  Introduce Brer Rabbit to Peter Cottontail.  Anything can happen!

If you think your kids need even more help with story writing creativity, check out my other creative writing project, Story in a Bag, where the kids begin with a few objects, build a book report outline with those objects, then write their story using the outline.  My boys loved Story in a Bag even more than Book Burst!  But both could be used together for a great creative writing project. 

Want to start even smaller and more simply?  Get your kids writing more creative sentences with Stretch-a-Sentence.  Start with "The dog", and end with "The chubby, mud-covered St. Bernard sat beside the white picket fence, staring at the lazy, hairless cat that lounged in the sunlight."  Turn it into an art project, too, but having your kids illustrate their finished product.  They'll love it!

Let me know what you think of these creative writing projects.  My kids thought they were fun, and their writing improved with each one.  I hope your kids have similar experiences.  Good luck!


May 3, 2015

Totally Worth the Wait Beef Stroganoff

Tonight for dinner I made the most delicious Beef Stroganoff I've ever had. 

I'm not a food blogger, but this was so good, I felt it just had to be shared. This Beef Stroganoff isn't quick, nor is it particularly simple to make.  But, I promise you, it's totally worth the effort!




1 lb. wide egg noodles
2 Tbsp. butter
2 large high-quality steaks
salt and pepper
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 pints button mushrooms, stems removed, quartered
2 cups boiling water
3 tsp. Better than Boullion beef flavoring
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbsp. flour
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp. parsley


Spray broiler pan with olive oil or non-stick spray.  Cut fat from steaks, then season with salt and pepper.  Place steaks on broiler pan, and place pan in broiler on lowest rack.  Broil steaks 4 minutes, flip, then broil 4 more minutes.  Check for doneness.  If steaks are too pink for your liking, broil 2 minutes at a time until desired doneness is reached.  Remove steaks from broiler and set aside.  Pour drippings from broiler pan into a small bowl and set aside.

In a large pot, melt butter.  Add mushrooms and sautee 20-30 minutes on medium-low heat until mushrooms are browned and shrunken.  Add reserved steak drippings.  Add onions and garlic.  Sautee an additional 10-15 minutes until onions are soft and begin to brown, stirring often.

In the meantime, combine water and beef flavoring and stir until combined.  Add 1/2 cup of the beef broth to the pot.  Let the mixture cook for an additional 5 minutes.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, and flour until smooth.  Pour mixture into the pot and stir to combine.  Reduce heat and let simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, slice the steak into approximately 1 inch by 1/2 inch pieces.  Add steak to the pot and stir to combine.  Stir in yogurt and sour cream until combined and let simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Season with additional pepper and parsley to taste.  

Serve over noodles.

There you have it.  Hopefully my instructions were clear.  Enjoy!

 photo 9c2d3d39-9e5d-4351-b060-d6251ee13eaa_zpseda17cd5.jpg

April 9, 2015

Quarterly Reports Revisited: simplifying the process

Almost 2 years ago, I began posting about how to homeschool in New York State, from submitting your Letter of Intent (LOI) to completing your Annual Assessment.  

This week, my own 3rd quarter report was due, but my family and I have been sick, and I just didn't have the energy to deal with it.  In my Quarterly Reports post, I shared a lengthy sample of how to write a quarterly report.  It's the way I've done it every year since we started homeschooling in 2011.  Until today.

In the name of expedience and stress reduction, I decided to simplify my quarterly report process this time around, so I revisited a sample provided by Angela of Cityschooling.

I like how short and simple it is, but I also felt the subject areas needed more detail in order to properly align with state regulations.  So I took the beginning of my lengthy reports and combined it with Cityschooling's shortened version, with just a little bit of added detail.  

It took all of 30 minutes to complete, compared to my usual several hours of going back through papers and textbook table of contents to figure out what we covered during the quarter.  I also decided to forgo the report card that I usually include with my quarterlies, since it is not required and just adds more work for me.

Below is what the end result looks like.  You're welcome to model your quarterlies after this, if you'd like, or stick with the longer report form I shared in my previous post.  Either way, I hope this helps you out.


Date:  April 10th, 2015

Student’s name:  Joe Smith

Quarter beginning and ending dates:  1/10/15 – 4/06/15

Hours of instruction this quarter:  250+

Joe is progressing at a satisfactory level or above in all subject matter.

We have had instruction in all the following areas, as per Section 100.10 of the Regulations of the New York State Commissioner of Education and Joe’s Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP): Arithmetic – long division, order of operations, writing fractions in higher terms and lowest terms, proper and improper fractions, equivalent fractions; Language Arts - spelling, penmanship, and reading; Social Studies – U.S. History and Geography, a study of the history of Sumo wrestling, and a study of the Louvre Art Museum; Science – mechanical advantage, load force and effort force, pulleys, a study of Geodes; Health/Safety – the ear, the eye, oral health, effects of drugs and alcohol; Music – weekly piano lessons including music history and theory; Visual Arts – line design, creativity prompts, introduction of grid drawing; Practical Arts – cooking and baking, household maintenance, introduction to building construction and electrical work; Physical Education, and Bible.

We have covered at least 80% of the planned material for this quarter.

Joe had ONE absence from instruction this quarter due to illness.

Mrs. Josephine Smith

Which method do you prefer?  Long or short?  Do you have a different method you like better?

March 20, 2015

FREE Simple Homeschool Planner 2015-16

It's the time of year amongst homeschoolers when parents are beginning to plan out the upcoming school year and searching for the perfect planner to help them get organized.

Last year, I was in the same boat.  But I couldn't find a planner anywhere that fit what I wanted.  So, I created my own, and shared it with all of you lovelies!

It worked perfectly for us, so I decided to go ahead and update it for the coming school year.  Same simple planner, new year.

Here's how it works:  

All pages are in PDF form, in hopes that the font I chose will remain intact whether you have it installed on your computer or not.  But, if it doesn't, I'm also including the ZIP file of the font that you can download, if you want.  Everything will work fine without it, though.

First, the cover page, which you can see in this image.  

Next, a full academic year (July 1st through June 30th) calendar page.  Here you can mark off planned days off, vacations, and holidays.  It's a year in review page.

Finally, monthly pages by subject, which is where you will fill in your lesson plans for each day.  One month per page.  When you print these, you can choose to either print them back to back (aka, duplex printing), or you can just print one month per page, which is what I prefer, so that when the pages are bound, the binding is always on the left side of the page I'm using.  

The subjects are color coded, but, to save on ink, you can print them monochrome.  Also, you'll notice there are only 5 days per week on the monthly pages.  They are Monday through Friday weeks.  I know, many of us school on the weekends, too, but I found the 5 day week planner to be most efficient for me.

After all pages are printed,  match up the month of July 2014 pages for each subject (putting them in whatever order you like), then match up August, and place them behind July, then September, and so on.

The subjects included in this planner are Math, English, History, Science, Health, and Bible.  There's also a calendar with no subject heading, which you can print as many times as you like to use for any other subjects you need a planner for.  Also, each subject's calendar is a separate file, so if you aren't teaching Health, for example, you can skip printing those pages.

The simplest way to bind your pages is with a 3-hole punch and a 3-ring binder.  You'll need a 1" to 1 1/2" binder.  I prefer the ones with the clear plastic cover where you can slide your cover page in the top opening.

Done!  Now you can start planning your days.

Let me know if you like this, if my instructions were clear, and if you have any suggestions.  Also, feel free to share the link with your homeschooling friends.  But, please, be sure to give credit where credit is due.  The link below will take you to Google Drive, where you can view and print the planner.   

Free Simple Homeschool Planner


March 17, 2015

A Homeschool Mom Apologizes: 10 things public schoolers believe - Part I

People who don't homeschool seem to not really know anything about homeschooling apart from the stereotypes perpetuated by social media memes and random (rare) news stories of psychopathic homeschool parents who locked their kids in a closet and starved them to death.

Many people think pocket protectors, social awkwardness, and parental abuse and neglect are the sum total of what homeschooling is.

And so, as a homeschooling momma, I feel I need to apologize on behalf of all the other homeschooling parents like me, to you, the public schooling parents who think we are doing our children a disservice.

I'm sorry my kids are different, maybe even a little weird.
Actually, this is one of those "sorry; not sorry" moments.  I'm sorry many of you feel that being different is necessarily a bad thing.  I'm not sorry that my kids don't conform to societal norms.  Frankly, I see that as a good thing.   I don't want my kids to keep up with the Joneses.  I want them to think for themselves, to follow after their own interests, and to not worry about the latest trends and fashions.  I want them to grow into much more deep and complex people than that.  

Just today, talking with my 12-year-old son about playing on the local playground, I asked him if that was something "cool" for kids his age to do.  He responded, "I don't care if it is.  I'm not trying to be cool.  I just want to be myself."

So, if my kids build the Eiffel Tower out of Legos and continue to think girls have cooties while other kids are texting on their smart phones and going to school dances where they make out with their girl/boyfriends, I will smile with pride and tell my kids what a good job they're doing.  And buy them more Legos.

I'm sorry you feel you couldn't do it.
Because, you could.  If it's really something you felt led to do, you could.  You'd figure it out.  But, when you say you couldn't do it, that's not really what you mean, is it?  More likely, what you mean is that you don't really know or understand what homeschooling is all about, and you don't know how you would go about it.  Or, what you mean is that it's not something you've ever felt you or your kids are led to do, so you've never given it any thought.

It's unfamiliar and uncomfortable.  That's okay.  We understand.  We've been where you are. 

But there are single mothers who homeschool effectively while working two or more jobs, completing online degrees, and raising multiple children.  Maybe some day you'll want to learn more about it.  Maybe not.  But believe me when I tell you - yes, you could do it.  We're living proof!

I'm sorry you think a child should be in the public school system in order to be properly "socialized".
What is it, exactly, that you mean by "socialization"?  I suspect you mean social interaction with other kids their own age.  I suspect you mean, "How will your kids learn to make friends?"  Or, "How will your kids learn to interact appropriately with people outside your own home?"  More specifically, I think you mean that without peer interaction within a public school setting, homeschooled kids will be socially awkward.  Weird.  At the same time, though, I think you mean, "How will your kids play sports, and don't you feel as though you're depriving them of important moments in the life of typical students - like pep rallies, and the prom?"

My knee-jerk reaction is to ask how often in your own daily life you find yourself sitting at a desk quietly for nearly 8 hours a day amongst 30 people your same age where you're only allowed to interact with them for a total of about 1 hour of those 8.  Is that what you call socialization?  Of course, that's slightly exaggerated, but only slightly.

My more rational response is this:  

If socialization is the way in which a child learns to interact with the outside world beyond their own home and immediate family, then I promise you we are meeting - and probably exceeding - your expectations.

Most homeschoolers I know have so much going on in their schedules that it makes me exhausted just to hear about it.  And, yes, there are also some homeschoolers who fit the stereotype of never leaving the house and  living in a bubble all their lives.  Those, however, are the exception, not the norm.  My family falls somewhere between the two extremes.  Here's what our typical schedule looks like:

On Sundays, we attend church.  This isn't just sitting in a pew and listening to a Bible lecture.  My 10-year-old joins in the children's church program.  He is with about 30 other kids ranging in age from 4 to 11.  They hear a Bible lesson, they sing songs, they play games, they make crafts, and more.  They are not restricted from interacting with each other, as kids are in a classroom setting.  My 12-year-old is too old for children's church, so he volunteers as an assistant with the younger kids.  He helps teach the Bible lessons and helps to keep the kids from getting too wild.  It amazes me how many little kids find him at other times throughout the week and run up to give him a hug.  The adult teachers of the children's program rave about how good he is with the kids and how helpful he is to the teachers.

On Tuesdays, we attend a local homeschool cooperative group.  A simple way to describe it is set up in a similar way that public school is.  Parents teach numerous different subjects, and the kids are broken down into age groupings.  They choose which subjects they want to learn.  There are class periods each day, so they get to take 3 classes.  During their classes, they are grouped with kids their same ages (give or take a couple years), and they sit at tables and listen to the teacher, similar to public school.  Before and after classes, however, all the kids - from age 0 to 12th grade, and all their parents - play together in the gymnasium, have lunch together, work on projects together, and are responsible for cleaning up the building before they leave - together.

On Wednesdays, both boys take piano lessons.  This requires them to interact with an adult one-on-one.  Once a month, though, the piano teacher holds a joint workshop for all her 20 students where they all get together to listen to a seasoned musician play for them as well as just hanging out with kids and adults who share their interest in piano.  Twice a year, they take part in a recital, performing in front of all the other students and their families.

After their piano lessons on Wednesdays, they participate in our church's after school religious education program, which we call Wild Wednesday.  About 50 kids from the local public school get out of school early and meet at our church where they learn a Bible lesson and how to apply it to their daily lives.  They sing songs, do crafts, and play games.  My 10-year-old takes part as a student along with the other kids ranging in age from 1st grade to 5th grade.  My 12-year-old is, again, too old to participate, so he works as a volunteer, assisting the Children's Pastor with anything she needs, and, again, being a role model to the younger kids.

On Thursdays evenings, both boys with their dad attend a program called Christian Service Brigade, which is similar to Boy Scouts, but is specifically Christian oriented.  They interact with other boys (and their dads) between the ages of 7 and 12 where they learn hands-on life skills as well as how to apply that week's Bible lesson to their lives.  Despite its name, not all the kids who attend are Christians.  So my boys have had to learn to get along with some rough around the edges kids.

On Fridays, once a month, our whole family attends what is called Fab Friday at our church.  It's a family oriented event with a different theme each month, and the purpose is simply family-friendly fun.  We have movie nights, talent shows, pizza and games nights, cookie decorating, sometimes we go bowling or roller skating, and once a year the kids have an overnighter.  My boys get to interact with people ranging in age from 0 to 100+.  They play foosball with fourth graders and puzzles with parents, and they look forward to it every month.

This schedule is just a normal week.  During the warmer months, my boys attend a summer Bible camp and a basketball camp.  My youngest plays summer soccer.  We go camping with friends and family.  And year-round, they invite friends from the neighborhood over for biking, or go-carting, or sledding, depending on the weather.

This is not atypical of homeschooling families.  Most have similar schedules.  You tell me:  are my homeschooled kids lacking in socialization?  Sure, they may never go to a prom, but honestly, if that's the measure of a successfully socialized kid, well.... I'm happy to keep my kids weirdly unsocialized

Photo credit:  Thomas Hawk
Meme credit:  used with permission by Hip Homeschool Moms
Do any of these resonate with you?  If you're a homeschooler, do you hear them often from non-homeschoolers?  If you're a public schooler, have you ever thought these things?

March 11, 2015

Order of Operations in Math: not open to interpretation

Some things are debatable.  Open to interpretation.

Like evolution.  Religion.  White chocolate or milk chocolate.  Chicken or beef.  

Other things are static.  They just are.  There's no debate.  No different interpretations.

Like photosynthesis.  DNA.  Gravity.  And Order of Operations in mathematical equations.

You can debate gravity all you want.  You can claim you have a different interpretation of how gravity works until you're blue in the face.  But, at the end of the day, you're still going to meet an impactful death if you jump off the Empire State Building.

Likewise, you can debate Order of Operations all you want.  Also known by its acronym, PEMDAS (which stands for Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication/Division, Addition/Subtratction), you can claim that everyone interprets PEMDAS differently until you're blue in the face.  But, at the end of the day, if you try to solve an expression in any way you feel like solving it, without following the rules of PEMDAS, you're not going to arrive at the correct solution.

Despite what Common Core methods are taught nowadays, it's not okay to get the wrong answer as long as you can show how you arrived there.  There is only one correct answer to a math problem.  We need to know and understand how to arrive there, but we also need to know and understand how to arrive there correctly.

In division, for example, more than one method exists for solving the problem.  Long division.  Short division.  Other methods I'm not even aware of.  But as long as all those methods arrive at the same answer, each method is correct.  6 divided by 2 equals 3.  Always.  150 divided by 5 equals 30.  Always.

In mathematical expressions, where more than one operation exists, how you arrive at the solution is of utmost importance.  There is only one method by which you can arrive at the correct solution.

For example, (5+5)-5x5+5/5x(5-5).

In the above expression, one can not simply work from left to right without taking into account the different operations that appear in the expression.  Let's simplify the expression working from left to right:


25 is, by the way, not the correct solution.  In order to understand why it is not correct, we need to understand PEMDAS.

"The basic rule that multiplication has precedence over addition [Order of Operations] appears to have arisen without much disagreement as algebraic notation was being developed in the 1600s"  ~Greg Vanderbeek, University of Nebraska, 2007.

PEMDAS (Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication/Division, Addition/Subtraction) tells us that, when solving a mathematical equation or simplifying an expression, there is a particular order in which we must approach the operations.  If parentheses are present, we must work with the operation inside the parentheses first.

Next, we tackle any exponents.  (Exponents are a shorthand way to show how many times a number is multiplied times itself.)  In our example above, there are no exponents, so we move on to the next step.

Next, we address the multiplication AND division, in the order they appear from left to right.  Multiplication does not take precedence over division or vice versa.  They are equal as far as which we must do first.  The only deciding factor is which appears first when reading from left to right.

Finally, we work with the addition AND subtraction.  As with multiplication and division, one does not take precedence over the other.  We work from left to right.

Following the Order of Operations, then, here is the correct way to simplify our above example:

(10)-5x5+5/5x(0)  Parentheses
10-25+1x0  Multiplication/Division
10-25+0  Multiplication
-15+0  Subtraction
-15  Addition

The solution to our expression is -15.

What if there are no parentheses or exponents in the expression?  Can we then just work from left to right?

For example:


It seems logical, doesn't it?  However, whether or not parentheses or exponents are present in an expression does not change the fact that PEMDAS must be followed.  In this case, we would simply begin with step 3:  Multiplication/Division, and follow it up with Addition/Subtraction.  Like this:

5+5-25  Multiplication
10-25  Addition
-15  Subtraction

The solution to our expression is, again, -15.

If a group of students are asked to measure the circumference of an inflated balloon, chances are good that they each will come back with slightly different measurements, because one may stretch the measuring tape tighter than the other, or the balloon may lose air between measurements.  The circumference of a balloon, though still a mathematical solution, is debatable.  It will be interpreted in different ways.

The solution to a mathematical expression, however, is static.  Only one method exists for arriving at the correct answer.  We need to know and understand this method in order to properly teach our children.  Unless, like Common Core methods taught in public schools, you feel it doesn't matter whether or not they arrive at the correct answer, as long as they can explain how they got there.

Personally, I think that does our children a disservice.  I'd even go so far as to say it's a failure.

I certainly don't want an architect building a house for me who was taught that way.  Can you imagine?  If he measured and did his calculations incorrectly, no matter how well he could explain how he got those calculations, the construction of the house would not be sound.  At the very least, it would be crooked.  At worst, it would cave in on itself.  Either way, finding the correct solution to a math problem really does matter.  I prefer my houses still standing.

What do you think?  Is gravity, or is math, open to interpretation?