Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The New Math At Our House

The old math at our house is here. We've shaken things up quite a bit, largely due to the absolute opposition to Saxon in our house. We are now using ONLY Life of Fred, at least for the rest of the school year.

James (8)  generally does one chapter of LOF per day. I read it aloud and have him write the answers to "Your Turn to Play" in a notebook. He is currently on Edgewood.

Christopher (10) is usually does 2 chapters of LOF per day, because he really enjoys it. He reads to himself and records the answers in a notebook. If there is a "row of practice" included in the problems, I cover up the answers ahead of time using sticky notes. He is working on Honey right now.

Grace (12) started on Honey since she was still having trouble with long division. She caught the concept pretty quickly with LOF and is now using Mineshaft. I am hoping to have her through Decimals and Percents by summer so she can go into pre-algebra.

I feel like I'm turning my kids into guinea pigs a bit here. The Life of Fred website says the elementary books are a full curriculum. A quick search of The Well-Trained Mind forum, however, tells me most people think it does not provide enough practice to stand on it's own. The Life of Fred rebuttal to this is that the child needs to understand the concept and this doesn't need to involve endless drill.  If they understand it, they don't need 100s of problems to practice it. If they don't understand it, 100s of problems will not necessarily make them understand it. I'm going to try just using Life of Fred to see how it works. My plan is to use one of the free online placement tests for another curriculum occasionally to check for grade-level progress. If I see issues or gaps, I will address those then.

Right now, my goal is to get the kids to enjoy math, understand it, and think it is fun. This is more important to me than how fast they can do worksheets or how "rigorous" a program seems. I can already see a lot of progress towards this goal after just a couple of weeks with our new math routine. The kids are enjoying math and looking forward to it. So here's hoping this sticks!


  1. I'm right there with you on Life of Fred. Dd9 is finishing up Apples right now and I just ordered Butterflies. Ds11 listens in on Apples, and will be doing Farming next week when I get the book - he was doing Fractions, but we didn't get very far due to the fact that his multiplication and long division are not quite solid. I think the program will be enough for the most part, but we have fun with Zacarro Primary Challenge Math as well!

  2. I recognize the guinea pig thing.
    We are using Life of Fred in combination with IXL (http://www.ixl.com)
    I have MEP bookmarked for when I don't know how to explain something myself, but the oldest is in 2nd grade now, so I'm still keeping up. ;)
    Those 2 in combination with regular practice fun books (the cheap ones you can buy everywhere) is a good curriculum for now. IXL is pretty advanced for their ages and I can teach it to them the way every child needs. My oldest (7yo) is a science-math girl who does 2 grades in 1 year and just gets it, the middle one (6yo) is more off a language girl who goes through the math without a problem, but actually likes the English behind it more (we're Dutch, English is not our mother language) and the youngest (4yo) has a photographic memory which works totally different ("mom, 1 less than 16, is that to the left or to the right?"). IXL is not a strong, straight forward curriculum. It gives me the chance to be free in the way I teach it to them, I don't have that feeling with real curricula.
    Life of Fred is a nice story that teaches us math and English together. It's a great extra (and I'm totally in love with it!).
    For now, this is what we need. We'll see what the future hold.

    I thought I should inform you about the existence of IXL. It was a life savior for us... and your story sounds so familiar. :)


    1. Both Zacarro and IXL look great- I hadn't heard of either of these so thanks very much for the recommendations! I'm bookmarking for when I get a chance to look at them more closely.

  3. I just have to tell you that we LOVE Life of Fred and we are in full agreement with Dr. Schmidt's idea that drill isn't the answer. Our daughter is now in about seventh grade (we're not exactly all on one grade level) and when we took her out of public school midway through sixth grade, her math skills were on about a second-grade level at best in most cases.

    She has done Fred, starting with Apples, and we're up to Honey now. She has grasped all the concepts with the "minimal" practice approach that she never managed to get with the pages and pages of worksheets. We are cautiously optimistic that she will get as far as maybe decimals/percents and maybe even fractions by the end of the year - which would have her at least caught up to the level she'd have in public school, where she was firmly in the remedial math camp.

    She's bright - but has learning disabilities - and the Fred approach works in the areas she's strong at and helps her in the areas she's weaker without making her feel dumb, which math at school always seemed to do!

    Anyway, just my two cents, glad to hear you like Fred!

    1. I am so glad you told me your daughter's story. I have been worrying about mine being "behind" but it is very encouraging to hear that your dd is doing so well with Fred. I am hopeful that we will have the same experience. My kids really adore Fred so I very much hope we can keep it as our "spine" all the way through.


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