Math is a dark subject lurking in our home. It follows Max around and pokes him just to annoy him and then skitters away, cackling. Numbers are not his friends. Try as we have, the multiplication facts remain elusive, shrouded in mystery and murkiness. I have tried not to push or cajole, but I'm not perfect and have felt some silly anxiety about him not grasping these foundational numbers. Stupid, really - not him - ME. I've referred to this angst in previous posts and I'm sure it is rather common among newer homeschooling parents.
This past homeschooling year we read a lot ABOUT math, but didn't DO much math. We dallied with Key Curriculum Press's booklets on fractions. We let Penrose the cat entertain us with math speak and number patterns, we used some flash cards, we jumped on the trampoline and traded math facts, we played math catch. We played math games. I quizzed him in the car - hard to be casual about that, really......"say, Max, I was just thinking about those Navy Seals you wanted to learn about. What's 5 x 9?" Like he didn't see what I was up to. The Great Number Rumble was a fun read. Freerice.com was novel in that you could donate grains of rice to feed hungry people all over the world while practicing math facts. Brown Paper School books held his attention for just a short time - those on math, anyway. Near the end of the year I turned math over to my husband because I was far too wigged out about it. He was much more casual about math and basically gave the reigns right back to Max, which I suppose is just fine. Max will do with math what he needs to do and for crying out loud (note to self, here), he's in the 4th grade.
SO - about to change tactics again. If anything, I reserve the right to change my mind :). Instead of all of this dancing around business, I am choosing to go with a more organized approach, one that can be doled out in small daily doses - like a curriculum - brilliant! Up until this weekend I was planning to utilize the Math U See program starting next year, but met a wonderful homeschooling mom over the weekend who told me about another program, which of course I had to check into! I did, I read reviews, I watched the videos, I scanned homeschooling forums, and I ordered the curriculum today. Thank you, Jeannie, for the heads-up!
It's called Teaching Textbooks (TT). Already I'm letting out a sigh of relief. Is it windy where you are located? That's probably me releasing all of this math angst over here, affecting the global wind patterns.
I did my research with Max in mind. He detests worksheets. He does not enjoy the pressure from me when it comes to math, poor guy. He likes humor. He LOVES the computer. He likes comics and clever. I think he'll like TT.
If you aren't familiar with TT, take a look at their website (of course!) You get a series of CD's that contain daily lessons, each carefully and gently taught by a gentleman with a very nice voice. You also get a student workbook wherein your child can practice problems. If your child doesn't understand something, he/she can refer back to the CD's for an explanation of each problem, or can look at a written summary in the workbook about a lesson. The lessons aren't dry - the author uses humor and colorful drawings/word problems sprinkled throughout to hold interest. It's very much like having a kind tutor sitting at the table with you as you do your work and that tutor takes you through everything step-by-step.
Another great feature that is a boon to homeschooling parents everywhere is that as the child completes each lesson, the program does the grading and keeps track of progress. I am attracted to this because I think Max is ready for more independent learning next year and I am ready for him to be a more independent learner, too.
I selected Math 4. Max took the placement test that is offered on the website and this is the level he needs to start at since we didn't follow a set order of math concepts this year. He's picked up a surprising amount of information, though, which I found when he took the placement test. All of that worrying for nothing!
The other curriculum I took a look at is called Life of Fred (LOF) and it sounds genius! This one is going on the back burner because the author made it clear that kids should have a solid hold on math facts prior to starting this program as it moves quickly right into pre-algebra. It takes one all the way through calculus and linear algebra. Maybe we'll consider starting this one during middle school. It was written by Stanley Schmidt, Ph.D. who is, of course, a retired math teacher. When he taught he began messing around with a cartoon character he named Fred; Fred became a part of his lectures and subsequently Fred's life story grew. Dr. Schmidt eventually wrote Fred's silly and quirky story down and in the process discovered a marvelous way to teach math. Fred, as it turns out, is a six-year-old math genius who is a math teacher at KITTENS University, and he has a pet llama he's named Lambda. Please refer to Cathy Duffy's review of LOF - her review is thorough and more than sells the curriculum. I'm drawn to Life of Fred for its humor and the fact that it strives to make math applicable to life.
The ending of the story, then, is that I am much less wigged out. Thank goodness for all who know me! That kind of thing has a ripple effect, you know. Now watch - he'll hate Teaching Textbooks! I doubt it, though. I'm genuinely excited about next year and the continuation of our homeschool adventure. I am looking forward to encouraging him to be a bit more independent in his work.
Now it's time to begin to apply the brakes in anticipation of that marvelous thing they call summer. Yipee!