So many times before I have heard people say “Oh, we don’t follow a curriculum . . . except for math.”
For some reason parents often feel confident teaching all the subjects except for math.
Have you ever felt that way?
The truth is, teaching kids math doesn’t have to be hard and you don’t have to follow some pre-written curriculum for your kids to get it!
Now, before I get into this post, let me share that math has never been my strong suit, I don’t find math easy to teach because I’m some kind of mathematical genius, it’s actually the opposite, because math was a struggle for me in school I learned some pretty eye opening things about it.
And I don’t think any post about math would be complete without this awesome clip from Incredibles 2:
(Forgive the grammatical errors in this image, I found it floating around in cyberspace and whoever added the text apparently doesn’t have a firm grasp on spelling/grammar – although truthfully, I don’t always either!)
WHAT I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT
I just want to clear this up right from the get-go. What I am not talking about in this post is unschooling. I have nothing against unschooling (I actually quite like it) but what I am talking about here is still teaching math but just not following a curriculum while you do it.
BUT WHAT IF WE MISS SOMETHING?
There is this huge fear that if we don’t follow a curriculum when it comes to math our kids will miss something vital. Let me put your mind at ease.
First of all, think about it for a minute, how much from your math education do you actually remember and use on a regular basis? I’m guessing some addition, subtraction, basic multiplication and division, money and time. The basics. How often do you use that algebra and all the equations you learned in high school? . . . Yeah, I thought so.
To be honest, so much of what is taught in school is taught too early. Every year the teachers teach pretty much exactly the same thing, just building slightly, and at the beginning of each fall kids come back to school forgetting a lot of what they learned the year before.
What if we taught kids math when they were actually ready and interested? Imagine how much more they would retain.
Did you know there have actually been studies that have shown that an interested a child can learn all of K-12 math in just eight weeks??? EIGHT WEEKS!
And actually K-6 math has been learned by 9-12 year olds in just twenty hours.
Then why are we trying to drill this into young kids before they are ready? And for hours at a time?
Because all of the above (and because of what I saw as a teacher in the classroom) I do not stress about math in our homeschool. We still do math but we don’t beat ourselves up over it and I try to make it interesting and relevant.
HOW TO TEACH MATH WITHOUT A CURRICULUM
Okay, so here’s how we do it in our home:
Honestly, this is probably the one I am the worst at. Baking is a great way to learn temperature, fractions and measurements but I am not the worlds best baker to begin with and inviting my kids to help me is not always my default but when I do it’s a time of learning!
#2 LET THEM FIGURE IT OUT
Do your kids often come to you with a question that is obviously math related? Mine do and instead of telling them the answer I get them to figure it out. If it’s one they can obviously figure out on their own I let them, if it’s something they need a little guidance on I’ll teach them how to do it.
Just this morning Raeca came up and told me that she had 11 chapters left in The Hobbit. Here’s what she told me:
There are 19 chapters in the book and I am on chapter 8, so, if you take away 8 from 9 you get 1 and then there is the other 10, that equals 11. Math!
Ha, she actually said “Math!” at the end and I burst out laughing.
#3 PLAY GAMES
We enjoy a lot of different board/card games together as family and so many of them are great for learning math. You can find a full list of our favorite games here. Any time you are using dice or counting points or money they are learning math.
That all being said, I still do have some math goals for each of my kids based on their skill level.
Ephraim is in kindergarten and this year we are focusing on adding and subtracting to 20. For those most part I just write some addition and subtraction problems in a notebook for him to write the answers to. I actually think that for this kind of math being able to figure out answers in your head is very important and I didn’t think he would be there yet but he is figuring out a lot of the answers in his head. Though, because he struggles with fine motor I am making sure he writes the answers down for writing practice.
Raeca is in grade three and one of my goals for this year has been for her to learn multiplication. Up until this point I’ve just been sharing how and why we multiply and then over the next few months we are going to focus on memorizing multiplication facts. I’m generally not keen on memorization for memorization sake but I think multiplication facts are one of those things a person just needs to memorize. Thankfully she’s got a great memory so it shouldn’t be too difficult.
I found this image and am thinking I may use this idea for memorization, maybe each week I’ll tape a different set of multiplication numbers for her to memorize to the stairs. It takes an otherwise boring task and makes it a little more fun. Hopefully the cat doesn’t pull them all down . . .
And that’s how we learn math in our homeschool without a curriculum! I would love to hear how you go about it in your homeschool!
About a month ago we were given the opportunity to try out Smartick Math. As much as I like interest-led education and the idea of at least semi-unschooling I do like a bit of structure when it comes to math because I feel like it’s not as easy to be creative with math as it is with other subjects.
I figured Raeca would enjoy the program but I wasn’t sure that it would really give appropriate questions to Ephraim (who just turned 4), boy was I wrong!
Right from the first day they tried it they were both hooked.
Smartick is a little different than some other math programs because they give a 15-ish minute session instead of just letting kids answer as many questions as they want. The first day when Raeca wanted to do more than her allotted 15 minutes this kind of annoyed me, but then I realized that it helped her from getting burnt out on it and she actually looked forward to being able to do a little bit every day (this is the same girl that was crying and whining about having to do math nine months ago).
As the kids continue with the math more areas are unlocked and they collect “ticks” which are pretty much like coins and they can buy items for their house and things like pets in the shop. This was a huge motivator for Raeca who wanted to buy a cat.
I was pleasantly surprised to see how diverse and appropriate the math questions were for the kids. They were just difficult enough without overwhelming them.
For Ephraim I found that using the app on a tablet works better than the computer because he doesn’t really have the fine motor skills developed to use a laptop mouse properly yet but that was easy enough to work out. Or, if we were using the computer he’d just point to the answer and I would click on it.
The only thing I would like to see added to Smartick is a little introductory video before introducing a new concept, they do have tutorial areas you can go into after but when you are doing your set of questions sometimes something new will pop up and the kids weren’t sure how to answer it. Since I was sitting beside them this was fairly easily remedied but I think it would be nice to have some teaching prior to the questions.
All in all we’ve been having a lot of fun with Smartick, the kids have enjoyed doing math so much more with Smartick than with worksheets or even with other online math programs we’ve tried.
If you’d like to give Smartick a try you can click on any of the links in this post and you’ll get a 15 day trial and 25% off of a subscription if you decide to keep going with it.
I’d love to hear what your family thinks of Smartick!
Full Disclosure: We were given a free trial of Smartick in exchange for a review but everything I wrote here is absolutely honest and true.
My husband has always loved games, he even has a group of friends that get together every month to play games. So it comes as no surprise to me that both my kids ask to play games often.
The only games I played when I was younger were pretty much Clue with my brother and endless rounds of Monopoly with one of my cousins (we did not play by the rules).
We don’t have a huge selection of games but we are slowly building it over birthdays and Christmases, games are such a great gift to give kids.
Thankfully almost every game out there has some kind of educational benefit to it so I can feel good with incorporating them into our homeschool day, the kids are still learning skills but they don’t even know it.
Some of the skills kids learn when playing games include:
developing fine motor skills
learning how to win or lose graciously
and lots more!
I thought I would share a few of our current favorite games.
Today is our official start to our first year homeschooling!
I have been waiting for this day for about 3 years and I’m kind of nervous that it will all blow up in our faces, I don’t think it will but that fear is definitely there.
When I started thinking about what I all wanted the kids to learn this year part of me got overwhelmed and just wanted to buy a full pre-made curriculum. BUT one of the reasons we are homeschooling is to have more flexibility in our days and our learning and I knew that wouldn’t be the best way for us.
So, I decided to hack together a bit of a curriculum (have you watched the hackschooling Tedx talk, so good!). I definitely have a bit of an unschoolers heart but at the same time I want to be able to have a bit of an idea of what we have learned. Plus, at this point my daughter really want to know when we are “doing school” so we are taking a bit of a Charlotte Mason/Unschooling/not sure what else approach. Over all our curriculum is very literature (and notebooking) heavy, we love books here and it’s the perfect way for us to learn about subjects we are interested in.
Below I’ve shared an overview of our curriculum and many of these subjects I have full posts on (or will soon) so you can follow those links as well.
GRADE ONE CURRICULUM
We will be following the Ambleside Online weekly Bible reading schedule for Year 1. Later in the year we will also be reading some missionary biographies.
READING – Our language arts will mostly be a lot of reading, including me reading aloud, audio books and a lot of reading practice for Raeca (I plan on sharing my list of read alouds for this year soon and you can always find out which books we did read in our monthly books we read posts). I also plan on incorporating poetry through a weekly poetry tea time.
WRITING – we will do some work in a Handwriting Without Tears workbook to work on technique and then we will be notebooking for most of our other subjects.
We have a grade 1 math workbook we will be going through because my daughter loves workbooks but we will also be incorporating a lot of math into real life. You can read our full math plan here.
For history, every 2-3 months we will learn about a different time periods in history; Ancient Times, Middle Ages, Early Modern Era and Modern Era. We will be reading a number of books in each time period, putting them on a timeline and doing a lot of notebooking. I am working on a full post for this that will be coming soon, for now you can check out our elementary ancient times book list.
Geography was something that I was never really taught in school, it was my personal interest in travel (and reading) that lead me to learn where countries are in the world. My enthusiasm has affected my children because I am always showing them where places are on the map, every time we read or hear about a place.
We are keeping geography super simple this year by focusing on a different country or city each month and reading lots of books about them. We will also learn about landmarks, some of the different foods, special holidays and more. We have actually started to read/learn about Paris so that’s our first city for the year, I’ll have a list of Paris picture books up on Friday and I hope to have a full post to share about our Paris studies soon!
I was tempted to make art very formal and complicated but decided to take it easy, it’s grade 1 after all. I plan on purchasing a good art book where we can talk about a few artists and pieces of artwork and maybe try to copy a few here and there. We also plan on utilizing Art Hub for Kids’ free YouTube videos. I will share a post with more details in a few weeks.
Spanish is something we will just be doing a little bit. I’ve been learning it a bit on my own (via Duolingo) and because of that Raeca has been picking up on a few things and wanting to learn more. Our full Spanish plan is here.
I don’t have a actual plan for physical education but we hope to put Raeca into gymnastics this fall, we have a family swim pass and plan on just generally spending time outdoors playing in nature and riding bikes.
As for a schedule, my plan right now is to do Bible, language arts and math each day. Then Monday and Wednesday we will also add in science, Tuesday will be geography and Thursday will be history. Friday will be more of a fun day and we will work on music and art and then possibly learn through some computer games or videos. I still don’t have time slots for our Spanish or poetry tea time, I’m going to see after the first week or two where it fits in best.
Ephraim is 3 years old and definitely different than Raeca was at 3. He doesn’t like to sit still for long, has little interest in coloring and even less interest in writing, so I don’t have huge expectations for the year but I do have a few goals.
For most of the reading I do with Raeca he will be sitting with us and probably doing something with his hands like playing with Lego or Playdough. I also want a bit of a learning plan for him so that he can be busy doing something while Rae is working on her work because as a highly sensitive child she needs it to be fairly quiet when she is working.
Originally my plan was to use one of the free curriculums I found online for preschool but they were all so much more intensive than I wanted. Since he doesn’t enjoy sitting for very long and doesn’t have the hand muscles to write yet, the last thing I want to do is try to do too much with him and turn him off. All I was looking for was something that would tell me one thing to do with him each day and I just couldn’t find something like that, so I did what I always do in that situation: DIY.
If you are looking for ways to save money in your homeschool without skimping on education make sure to come back and check out the other posts in the next few weeks!
OUR GRADE ONE MATH GOALS
What we plan on covering this year:
counting by 2’s, 5’s and 10’s
addition problems up to 20 (using a variety of strategies)
subtracting problems up to 20 (using a variety of strategies)
develop an understanding of repeating patterns
describe and use mental math strategies
understand and describe equality
understand the difference between 2-D and 3-D shapes
demonstrate an understanding of more and less
demonstrate an understanding of measurement by comparison, ordering objects, etc
understand place value
tell and write time
It seems to me that math is something even unschoolers will buy a curriculum for. Even in The Well-Trained Mind, Susan Wise Bauer assumes parents will buy a curriculum. I think so often math can get overwhelming when it doesn’t need to, especially when it comes to the younger elementary years.
Here’s how I plan on running our math program on a grand total of $3:
I picked up a cheap 120 page grade 1 math workbook for a couple of dollars that covers the majority of our goals for the year. My daughter is the kind of child that enjoys workbooks and likes to know when she’s “doing school” so this totally works for her, though it would be entirely possible to skip the workbook for kids that are adverse to the idea of them, but this is what works for us now (we’ll see how my son feels when he gets here in a few years).
We will just be covering the topics as they appear in the workbook, the first bit is often review so we cruise through those pages pretty quickly, as new concepts appear I’ll take some time to explain them. We will often be using manipulatives we find around the house; beans for adding and subtracting, real change for the money portion, etc. Additionally we will use a number line from time to time, they are easy enough to make or find a printable one online.
FREE WORKSHEETS AND WEBSITES
If I find her struggling on a concept and needing additional practice, more than the workbook has I will either find some free worksheets online to print off, or, and more likely, we will head over to my favorite free math website, Khan Academy.
I really love Khan Academy, if it were up to me we would probably ditch the workbook and just use the website but for now we’ll do a bit of both, they even have video tutorials so it’s easy for your child to watch the video and then do the practice questions.
I think Khan Academy is a great resource for all children but especially those who don’t enjoy workbooks but do enjoy a chance to use a computer.
READ LIVING MATH BOOKS
There are some great living math books out there these days, they truly help math to come alive for kids. Last week I shared a list with a few different living math books and I’m planning on sharing another one just for grade 1 math in the future.
I find these books make math more approachable and fun for kids.
So, with our workbook, Khan Academy and few manipulatives we can find around our house we are all set for our grade one math year!
I would love to hear how you approach math in your homeschool.
Do you buy a full curriculum?
Do you use Khan Academy?
The Well-Trained Mind will instruct you, step by step, on how to give your child an academically rigorous, comprehensive education from preschool through high school―one that will train him or her to read, to think, to understand, to be well-rounded and curious about learning. Veteran home educators Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise outline the classical pattern of education called the trivium, which organizes learning around the maturing capacity of the child’s mind and comprises three stages: the elementary school “grammar stage,” when the building blocks of information are absorbed through memorization and rules; the middle school “logic stage,” in which the student begins to think more analytically; and the high-school “rhetoric stage,” where the student learns to write and speak with force and originality. Using this theory as your model, you’ll be able to instruct your child―whether full-time or as a supplement to classroom education―in all levels of reading, writing, history, geography, mathematics, science, foreign languages, rhetoric, logic, art, and music, regardless of your own aptitude in those subjects.