Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Homeschool Math Curriculum: Our choices for the 2017-2018 School Year and How we got here

I get a lot of questions about curriculum.  I have been homeschooling for 16 years, and over the course of time, I have tried MANY different curriculum....and have researched even more.   In the past, we have used:  Singapore Math, Teaching Textbooks, Life of Fred,  Abeka, Horizons, ALEKS and Critical Thinking Press.    Some of those have worked well for certain children and were disasters for others.  My firstborn LOVED Singapore for elementary, but my next two were brought to tears by it.   Those same two really liked Teaching Textbooks but my firstborn HATED how they over-explained and repeated things.  So, there likely isn't a perfect curriculum for every family (or even every child  in the SAME family for crying out loud.) (That is my disclaimer).  Some of the favorites for us, some of our friends don't like at all.  That's okay..we're all different.

Thankfully, with all this experience under my belt, I now know which curriculum is best for which type of math student...and can better choose for each of my children based on past experience with siblings who have similar personalities and math abilities.   For that reason alone, I encourage everyone to have a half dozen more kids or so cause homeschooling really does get easier then. =)  You don't want to have to quit when you have finally figured it all out.  

I'll address elementary first.   Pretty much any curriculum can work for kindergarten and 1st grade.  Even the companies that include "Drill and Kill" (a term where they kill their students by a ridiculous amount of problems on a page until they despise math)...don't typically overwhelm the 5 and 6 yr olds.
But whoa buddy....if you survive to 2nd or 3rd grade, some of those workbooks  should come with a few boxes of Kleenex.  Enter diagram A:

   
Can you even imagine being an 8 yr old boy who just wants to be outside and being given a page (or TWO!!!)   of this stuff?????    They either get it or they don't.  20 problems is not better than 5, seriously...maybe over the course of the week but in one sitting.   Just shoot the kid now and put him out of his misery!!!        This is what I found in curriculum like Abeka and Horizons.   For some reason, everyone just thinks Abeka is the best.   There are some books worth using in Abeka....I'm not denying that, but if that is all  you use for everything....you and the kids will soon hate homeschooling.  It's like school at home, and well, stressful!

There are other options for the little people to help them (and you) enjoy school more.   Using LEGO's,   math around the house,  online math games and if you want a curriculum, I REALLY like Life of Fred  When I use this for my 8 yr old, he is so happy!  After attempting an Abeka 3 math book last year and seeing the drill and kill, he asked me for something else.   We switched to Life of Fred and he thanked me every day for a week!    Because we were zooming through the books so quickly last year, I'm adding  a new workbook to use along with Fred to slow us to a normal speed and solidify some concepts.  I will be using Math Lessons for a Living Education book 2 for my 6 year old  and book 4 for my 8 year old.  I will also be doing a few lessons per week with them in Life of Fred because it's just so stinking fun and we all love Fred.  (Here he is now...)

Okay....my next student is going into 6th grade....LOVES and thrives with Fred and will be doing  Decimals and Percents this year along with Zillions of Practice Problems.   She will probably finish early and will head on into Pre Algebra 0 with Physics which is Fred's 1st of 3 Pre Algebra books.

My next daughter is going into 8th grade and does not think math is the greatest subject in the world.  (scratching my head).  She is learning Mandarin Chinese but the Fractions book was complicated.  Okay then.  So she will be stopping her Life of Fred career as it was not a good fit her for, and using Teaching Textbooks Pre-Algebra.    Because she has a similar math interest and ability as a few older siblings, I know this is the perfect fit for her.  She will stick with Teaching Textbooks throughout high school as well.

The next in the lineup is going into 9th grade.  He just finished Life of Fred Beginning Algebra and really likes it.  He has requested to use Life of Fred Advanced Algebra next year...so we are!

My oldest still in home school is going to be a senior.  She will likely take a dual enrollment math course this year in College Algebra or College Math.   I'll let her choose cause she is working on a degree in English.....and she just wants to write ALL.DAY.LONG.    (and she has fulfilled all her math courses required for high school...but she wants to take more).

Let me give some closing thoughts on using Life of Fred in High School.  In my opinion, Life of Fred high school courses are more advanced than pretty much anything on the market.  He doesn't just teach you how to solve an equation, he wants you to know HOW and WHY you do that and THEN solve it.    Since the elementary series seems light and to some people "not very meaty" because it lacks "Drill and Kill" and it's "not the way math is done"  they also (falsely) assume that Fred must not be enough for high school.    That is just not true.   One of my students who used Fred all through high school (and only Fred)  scored a 35 on the math ACT portion (out of 36).  And was able to pass the College Algebra and College Math CLEPS....with near perfect scores.     So nobody can tell me that Fred is "not enough."    I think for some it is "too much" because non math kids sometimes struggle with the challenge of Fred.    It has more math in their books than Saxon and other heavyweights...that you can read about here.    If you have a child that wants to go into Engineering or a STEM field,  then Fred is what you want them to take!!!!  If you have a kid that just struggles with math and doesn't have the interest or desire to dig in and figure out the WHY of math, then I'd probably steer you to Teaching Textbooks.  (We have both kinds of kids in our family....they are not smarter or dumber just different and that is totally okay! Those same kids excel in other subjects that math nerds can't stand!)
So that is my (not so brief) explanation of why we do what we do when it comes to math curriculum.

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