Thursday, January 28, 2010

Unschooling Math - sort of, so far

Unschooling math isn't something I'm completely comfortable with, yet I find it preferable to the alternative of using a math program or curriculum. Perhaps no parent is ever completely comfortable with how their child is learning math -- every program has deficiencies and we always wonder if there is something better suited to our children out there. I'm not offering any insights or advocating my way of seeing things. I'm just documenting why I'm taking the approach I take so that in the future when I ask myself what the hell I was thinking, I can come back and see this post and say "ohhhhh...."

I don't think I'm having any new epiphanies on the matter, so maybe this is a progress report. Also, since I started this blog, Blogger has added tags, so maybe I can tag this and find it more easily than my older posts on the subject. Someday I will get around to tagging those, but for now, this will be a recap and an update of how math is going in our homeschool.

I'm a collector/hoarder of books and educational paraphernalia. I suppose that what I'm thinking is that if we have everything we could possibly need, my kids will find it and use to as it helps them best. I'm also a big believer in natural learning - that so many needed skills can be learned just through the normal course of life and that this knowledge learned through application will stick better.

Back when I first started to homeschool, I read alot about homeschooling and education. Some things that stick out in my mind were reading Mary Pride mention that her father taught her all of elementary math in one summer. Well, that sort of takes care of my concern about elementary school and it reinforces my feeling from school that most of the math seemed to just repeat itself year in/year out. I always liked math, found it to be a game and I enjoyed it. I was never in the highest math group but always did well where I was. What sticks out most in my mind was how much I loved algebra and geometry. Most interesting, though, was that I truly found high school geometry to be a reiteration of what we had been learning up until then. I suppose there was the added element of proofs, but I recall that they were very simple and fun for me. Beginning with trigonometry, I found math tedious and uninteresting. Maybe I'm just not the math sort. Luckily, I have a husband who did not find it so and went further in math than I did, so I can balance my math thoughts with his, though his thinking is very similar to mine.

After Mary Pride seemed to confirm my suspicion that there is not all that much to elementary math (or perhaps math before algebra), we found Gareth Lewis. I admit I have not read One-to-One in years, but what my husband took from it was the importance of keeping math mental for as long as possible.

Since my older daughter is such a reader, we have lots of math books in our house. A few are text books from used book sales, but I don't think anyone looks at those. I have found the E.D. Hirsch books helpful. FUN books has a great selection of math books and I've heard good things about the Jacobs series. We've also acquired the first Life of Fred book, though we may not be ready for it, but it's on my radar. Just looking through his website, I found what probably best sums up my approach to education - "Let them have a happy childhood." What he writes for how to learn the times tables is true of our house -- my husband quizzes my daughter in the morning with the math fact of the day. It's a "fact family" - what is 5 x 3? 15. What is 15/3, what is 15/5 sort of thing. We have the multiplication charts on the back of the door of our downstairs bathroom. I have tried to interest my daughter in the multiplication grid without much interest. I should try again. Just playing around with the multiplication chart and a 100 chart (easy to find on an internet search) helps to learn the times tables. John Holt recommended in one of his books to learn the tables by using a multiplication chart with blank spaces and letting the child fill it out.

I suppose what is most important to me is that my children learn to add, subtract, multiply and divide, so that is what we are focussed on right now and it seems to be happening fairly seamlessly. I buy the placemats with the tables on them, they may be ignored. I hang the hundred chart and the multiplication tables. We talk to our kids, peppering then with questions throughout the day (it's easy to incorporate multiplication into many daily tasks, especially trips to the grocery store).

Up next....
Mathematicians lament.
American Girl books.
Freedom in education blog

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