And maybe it was a bit strong, but I’ve learned something.

I’ve always been a big believer in choosing math curricula that focus on understanding rather than rote learning.

Here’s my post from last year’s Virtual Curriculum Fair:

Thinking Mathematically: How I Choose Math Curriculum

And while I don’t have big regrets about teaching my older 2 children in this way, I have gained a greater appreciation for the spiral approach to teaching mathematics.

After banging my head against the wall for several years, I have finally found a math program that is working for William, my middle son.

It’s Christian Light.

Every day there are an oral skip counting exercise, 2 sets of flashcards to review, and a speed drill. These are followed by the introduction of new material. Then the bulk of every lesson is the “We remember” section. So every single day William has to remember how to do addition with carrying and subtraction with borrowing. He frequently is asked to convert between inches and feet or gallons to quarts. There are word problems, and multiplication fact practice. Every single day.

I think he is finally going to remember how to do subtraction.

Is it fun?

No. But it doesn’t have to be. I firmly believe that everyone needs basic math skills. While I’ve heard many preach that making learning fun makes it easier, there comes a point where things have to be done. I need to make sure that he works up to his potential. That is not going to be calculus in his case and that’s fine. And learning to be diligent is a valuable trait.

Is it quick?

No. Due to his extremely distractible nature, it can take an hour or more for William to complete his daily math lesson.

But is my almost 11 year old finally remembering the mechanics of doing math?

YES! (Most of the time anyway.)

### Here’s what I’ve learned so far in this journey.

1. Don’t assume that what works for one child will work for another (or that the way you learn is how your children do).

2. Don’t be afraid to try different things.

Don’t miss the other great math ideas at the Virtual Curriculum Fair!

Math Art – Geometry by Julie @ Highhill Education

It’s Math-magical by Missouri Mama @ Ozark Ramblings

Too Many Math Programs or Not by Linda B @ Homeschooling6

The post where I admit I was wrong by Kristen H. @ Sunrise to Sunset

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase through an affiliate link, I will receive a small percentage of the sales price.

As an elementary student I don’t remember being too fond of math. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t particularly like it either. I do remember shedding tears over division of fractions. I just didn’t understand WHY division was the same as multiplying by the reciprocal, and that really upset me. That and the fear that I might make a bad grade. But that’s a topic for another day.

Everything changed when I started Algebra. I was blessed with an excellent teacher. He had worked as an engineer, but for various reasons had decided to become a math teacher. (The reasons did not include not being a good engineer. He really knew his stuff.) It was in Algebra I that I learned to love word problems. Call me crazy, but I really like a good word problem.

I think largely due to that Algebra teacher’s influence, I ended up majoring in engineering. (I not only had him for Algebra I, but also for Algebra II, Algebra III, and Advanced Physics, in addition to being the coach of the math team. Yes, I was on the math team. Go ahead and snicker.)

And what does all this background have to do with my homeschool curriculum choices?

Quite a lot actually. The single most important objective I have for my children in their math education is that they understand math. I do still want them to know their math facts. But if I had to pick, I’d chose mathematical understanding and application over computational speed. No question. That definitely influences my curriculum choices.

My oldest son has always shown a high aptitude for math. When I started researching homeschooling curriculum (way earlier than I care to admit) I finally settled upon starting with a combination of Miquon and Singapore Math. I didn’t do anything fancy trying to coordinate the two curricula to mesh the topics together. He just worked through Miquon Orange, then Singapore 1A, back to Miquon for the Red book, then back to Singapore 1B. We kept alternating until we ran out of Miquon books. (There are 6). Then he continued using Singapore Math through Singapore 6A.

It was in Singapore 6A that he began to point out that there really wasn’t anything new he was learning. So I went to work looking for Pre-Algebra options. What I settled on for him is Life of Fred. Life of Fred is a series of math books in which all the math is taught in the form of a story. My son loves Life of Fred because of Fred’s crazy adventures. He likes the quirky sense of humor. I love to hear my son laughing doing his math. Life of Fred books go off on some wild tangents that have really gotten my son to think. He does a lot of thinking about mathematical patterns. He asks me theoretical questions that I cannot figure out. My son is midway through Advanced Algebra, and he is understanding math.

I’ve read many reviews of Life of Fred that say it’s a good curriculum for a more literary inclined student. Maybe that’s because it might catch the interest of a student who likes to read. But that makes it sound like it’s watered down math. I assure you, it is not. And my son is far from literary. He likes to read computer manuals and books of facts–not literature.

This sequence of curricula has worked great for my math minded son who needs very little practice to understand a concept. Who, in fact, detests anything that seems even remotely like “busy work”. I have a hard time getting him to write enough of the problem steps down.

I used to be under the crazy delusion that I could pick out curriculum once and just use the same thing for all my children. I have determined that I—-

1. Like to research curriculum way too much to find one thing for the whole family to use forever, and
2. Have 5 extremely different children.

Starting with Singapore and Miquon was also a good fit for my oldest daughter, but she has already told me she doesn’t think she could learn from Life of Fred. And my middle son has some learning issues that made Miquon and Singapore poor choices for him. Who knows what will be the best choice for my youngest 2 children?

The freedom to tailor the curriculum to meet the needs of each individual student is one of the reasons that homeschooling works so well. It’s a good thing I’m a curriculum junkie!

For more Virtual Curriculum Fair Posts visit these great blogs:

Math Lapbooks—Virtual Curriculum Fair Week 2 Angie Wright @ Petra School

Virtual Curriculum Fair Week Two: Discover Patterns, Mathematics, Logic and Some Science by Leah @ The Courtney Six Homeschool

Our Choices For Math by Melissa @ Grace Christian Homeschool

A Magnificent Math Manipulative by Letha Paulk @ justpitchingmytent

Our Math Choices – Virtual Curriculum Fair by Tristan @ Our Busy Homeschool

Math Literature?!?! by Christine @ Crunchy Country Catholic

Learning Math at My House by Jessica @ Modest Mama

Math Using Hamburger Paper by Debbie @ Debbie’s Digest

Math Facts or Fun? Why Not Both! by Beth @ Ozark Ramblings

Heart of Dakota- The Fine Details- Part 2 Science by Lynn @ Ladybug Chronicles

Learning Math Block by Block by Laura O in AK @ Day by Day in Our World

Plugging Along with Math by Cindy Horton @ Fenced in Family

What’s Working and What’s Not: Math Edition by Leann @ Montessori Tidbits

Math Anyone? by Cindy @ For One Another

Ahh, Math. by Nicole @ Schooling in the Sun

Flying Without a Parachute: Math with no Curriculum by Pam @ Everyday Snapshots

Math in Our Homeschool by Christine T @ Our Homeschool Reviews

Math, Math, and More Math by Dawn Chandler @ tractors & tire swings

Discovering Patterns: Math, Logic, and Some Science by Christa Darr @ Fairfield Corner Academy

The Science of Math by Brenda Emmett @ Garden of Learning

“Mom, did we do math today?” by Chrissy at Learning is an Adventure

Math, Math, and More Math by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Drill.

It’s kind of a dirty word to students and some educators. It invokes images of tedious copying of spelling words or rote recitation of math facts.

And in all honestly, it’s not something that has been a strong point in our homeschool up to now. I’ve got some “good” reasons. (Or maybe I should call them excuses since I’m being honest.)

• Son #1 has been blessed with a memory that doesn’t require much drilling.
• The attitude about drill has been less than stellar.
• It takes me time  to go through flashcards or quiz effectively.

But to lock something into long-term memory there is going to be some drill required. Really. There is just no way around it. One could make the case that anything someone uses often they will remember, and if they don’t use it often enough to remember, then they can just look it up or figure it out when they need it. But I personally disagree. There are some things that I want my children to KNOW.

I was excited to find that I had been selected to review Big IQ kids.com as a member of TOS’s Homeschool Crew. Ideal for students in 2nd through 5th grades, Big IQ kids is designed to make practicing spelling, vocabulary, math, and even learning the states more fun than flash cards. In addition, children are rewarded for their time spent practicing with credits in the game area.

I assigned my middle son to work on Big IQ kids, since he is the only one in my family that falls in ideal age range.

We started out with math on the default setting.  There were a lot of problems in the problem set! (I think it was 50.) That was way too many for my son to do and maintain his focus.

Thankfully, I found the option to modify the math lessons.

That was a huge help. You can customize the problems so that your child is practicing what he needs to practice, and you can customize the length of assignments.

My son loves maps so he tried out the U.S. States program next.

I like the way this game starts out very easy. In Level 1, the student is shown the location, spelling, capital, and abbreviation and asked to click on it or copy it. But I wish that there was an option to turn off State Spelling. Or maybe make it Step 4. Typing in the spelling of the states (even though it was just copying) was too tedious for my son, who has difficulty reading and types by copying one letter at a time. So we didn’t get very far with this section.

The final section that we tried was the spelling/vocabulary section. First, I had the program generate a word list. The words were reasonable, but I soon realized that to use our time more effectively, I should enter my own spelling lists. That was simple to do.

Practicing the spelling words on-line was helpful to my son. It was nice that the program automatically included a definition of the word too.

Overall, I think this is a good program to provide extra practice in a fun way. Our favorite was definitely the math portion.  I recommend trying out the free versions and seeing if they program is a good fit for your child.

All of these programs are available in both a free and premium version, except the Spelling program. The Spelling is always free! The main difference between the premium and free versions is the progress tracking capability in the premium versions. The programs are available by subject, so you don’t have to subscribe to the whole program, just the subjects that you will use. You can compare the free and premium math versions and the free and premium state versions in greater detail on the website.

The MathFacts Program is available for \$9.99/month or \$49.99/year. The U.S. States Program is available for \$39.99/year.

Disclosure: I was given a free subscription to both the U.S. States and MathFacts Programs in order to do this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Last week was standardized testing in our home. The next day I accidentally discovered something that has been very helpful to my younger son (8 years old) who has difficulty concentrating on his assignments.

I had left the stopwatch sitting on the table, and my son picked it up while he was doing his math. He said “Go!’ pressed the start button and proceeded to do the 2 math problems that were in the first box. (He uses Math Mammoth and there are lots of boxes around groups of problems.) When he finished, he said “Stop!” and stopped the time. He sat there for a second, said “Go!” and repeated the process.

I stood there with my mouth hanging open. He was able to complete his math in record time and he only missed 1!

Letting him use the stopwatch definitely Works for Me!