Thinking about Maths and Homeschooling – Month 8 of Learning at Home

I have been thinking about Maths quite a bit lately – should my kids be taught Maths in some kind of formal way? If so, how? Edward covered a lot of Maths basics before he left school at age 7 to homeschool (the best day of our lives!) so it’s kind of easier to think about building on that than having the entire responsibility for my daughter’s numeracy resting on my shoulders. However, I do feel bad that Edward’s mental arithmetic is deteriorating, he’s forgetting the skills he learned at school. I feel sad about that because in my everyday life I wish my mental arithmetic was better. It is a really useful skill although only for fairly basic Maths. But then I read articles like these that make me relax (well, for five minutes anyway! Know that feeling?!).

Since Edward left school, he’s only been using ‘Life of Fred’ Maths books a few times a week. Although it’s something he sits at a desk for, not very ‘unschooling’, he doesn’t mind (he’d choose to play instead, but he doesn’t protest when I ask him to do it). I think it’s pretty fun and I enjoy those 30 minutes with him talking about Maths. I hated Maths at school. I had ghastly teachers so doing Maths with him has been a revelation to me, I enjoy it so much! That’s in part just because I’m spending some concentrated time with him, that’s always going to be fun, but I like the Maths part too.

I really didn’t know where to start with Maths with Petra (who just turned 4). We talk about numbers, count and I made sure she associated numbers with actual things but then I was a bit stumped. I have written many times about my acute lack of homeschooling imagination so all the great ways other people having to teaching Maths ‘in real life’ challenged me to say the least! Recently, I read a post on a great blog I follow, ‘Letters from Nebby’  that discussed her use of ‘Life of Fred’ and another, quite different programme, ‘Math-U-See’. I like Nebby’s approach to homeschooling so I bought the MUS programme for both Edward and Petra (thanks to the very generous help of an American friend with the shipping to Bahrain! Thank you!) Today, I watched the DVD about how to teach the ‘Primer’ stage – a child’s first introduction to Maths via MUS. I am so excited! I think Petra and I will have so much fun. I love all the manipulatives. I am so pleased I bought it and for the best reason – yes, it will assuage my guilt regarding if/how I’m dealing with the Maths question but much more importantly I think it’s going to be a fun thing to do together! I genuinely feel like it’s going to be as fun as a craft or anything else we could do together stuck at home in the heat of Bahrain or soon to be slightly worse heat of Dubai.  I am not comparing MUS to walks in the woods or fascinating museums or anything like that. I’m not totally crazy! I’d much rather do that and would probably choose it over any Maths program but since that’s not on offer, this genuinely looks like fun. Hopefully, Edward will find it fun too, as long as it’s not too reminiscent of school. Fortunately, Petra doesn’t have that baggage.

Despite an interest in the kids learning Maths, I don’t want to get carried away. Penelope Trunk’s blog (which I linked to earlier), talked about a fascinating article in the NY Times advocating that kids learn Applied Maths instead. I think this is a FANTASTIC idea and when we get the Maths basics down, I would like to have the courage to move away from MUS, ‘Life of Fred’ and anything else and see if we can find a way to pursue this course of learning instead. I think it could be much harder to find a way to do it, it might, gulp, require more imagination on my behalf, or perhaps a good tutor from somewhere in the community if their Dad is still busy in a couple of years time and can’t do it (because he’s very able to do so) but I think it would be great avenue to pursue, as long a pressure of looming SATs or something doesn’t ruin it. The homeschooling jury seems to be out on whether kids need high grades on traditional tests to get into good Universities ( I’ll cross that bridge when we get to it, when we know what the kids might want to do, and whether we have to squeeze ourselves into a traditional box for a couple of years for the kids to pursue their dreams or not.

In the meantime, I am so happy to be excited about doing Maths with the kids, whatever approach we use, and that has got to rub off on them. I will keep it fun. I will keep it real. What’s the best way you do that, especially if you are a bit imagination-challenged like me in this respect?!

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About homeschoolingpenny

Hi and welcome! My name is Penny and I used to live in Bahrain but In November 2012 moved to Dubai and now we live in Granada, Spain! If you want to contact me my email is I recommend you start my blog on 'Day 1' but please enjoy whatever you dip into. 23 February 2012 marked the first day of no more school FOREVER for my two kids. Edward, who is nearly 10 had attended a variety of schools since he was very little. Petra, who is now 6, has never gone to school. On this date we decided Edward was never going back to school and Petra never would go to school. We hope to successfully homeschool from this day forward, although we would consider an alternative school as an option- if there was some amazing Sudbury or other really alternative school. Actually, I prefer the term 'home learning' than 'homeschool' because I don't like to think of school coming into our home. In fact, I hope to go further and guide/learn alongside, rather than teach, my kids using the 'unschooling' philosophy to instill a lifelong love of learning in them. We lived in the Middle East and now Spain all of which are very challenging places to home educate. This is an exciting journey that I used to blog about regularly, at first it was on an almost daily basis. Please join me on our travels and I hope we might be able to help each other out along the way. I certainly hope I can be a source of support and comfort and, in time, knowledge to all potential/presently participating homeschoolers/home educators/unschoolers. Good luck to us all! If you want to read about why I started home educating, why I pulled my son out of a 'very good' private school mid-term, how I felt at the very start and how my philosophy has evolved, please start from 'Day 1' of the blog. Please do post comments at the end of any days that you read. Your opinion is valuable and it's great to start up debate amongst other people commenting too, however old the post. Thank you for visiting homeschoolingmiddleeast.
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4 Responses to Thinking about Maths and Homeschooling – Month 8 of Learning at Home

  1. Dottie Hines says:

    For maths we have a workbook (this is mainly for proof of education as it is easy proof) but the applied maths would be from measuring things for me (we need tiles for the floor so how many square feet is our floor), cooking (I will have the double recipes which sometimes are metric and sometimes are imperial so they get decimals and fractions), and the grocery store (find this item and get me the cheapest option…often have to be sent back a time or to before they have figured that out correctly). As for learning the basics and keeping them in your head, I think that requires repeated practice. Memorizing the times tables through the 10s and repeated practice with addition along with the basics of how to get through the mechanics of double/triple digit maths really will give them enough standard maths. Of university they will need more but that is a teenage bridge to cross.

    • homeschoolingpenny says:

      Thanks, Dottie. You are the wonderfully imaginative Maths types that I aspire to be! I will keep on trying because I LOVE your approach!

  2. My son loved Math U See! He sort of lost interest after Gamma (or maybe he’d renew interest if we went back to it; maybe he was just into other things for a while), but he loved putting his big white board on the floor and putting the manipulatives on that, and writing on his own board along with the screen. And I’ve heard great things about Life of Fred, although we haven’t tried it.

    • homeschoolingpenny says:

      Oh good! My son will do the end of Delta and then start Gamma, I hope he enjoys it. Interesting how your son lost interest after that but as you said, it might be a stage. I will watch for that and let mine go with the flow too. Thanks!

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