Monday, February 8, 2016

Living Math

This year as I prayfully researched all the great homeschool math programs out there, I could not settle on one.  When I embarked on this homeschool journey and originally started reading and researching I really gravitated towards the Charlotte Mason living as well as the words of John Holt like this gem...

Kindergarten with 1 child was fun and easy with a napping toddler but come first grade and a third baby on the way, I started to feel pressure to make sure I was doing "real school" with her.  So I bought an open and go boxer curriculum and signed up for Classical Conversations.  However, other than feeling good that I had something "to show" for our days in published bound books and folders...that was about it.  I got so caught up in trying to do school and get it all done and forgetting one main reason we were led to homeschool in the first place!  My daughter is smart but it was obvious in preschool she wasn't a typical student who fit the classroom mold and we thought she would do better in a more relaxed , flexible environment with the freedom to cater to her learning style.  However, teaching her systematically during "school time" at home wasn't helping her that much, but more just making me feel like the worst teacher and worst parent in the world.  It would take do long to get through simple assignments that I was resenting her for taking up so much of my time in which I had to keep distracting the younger ones.  All in all...things were not right.  I had 2 little ones but the oldest was taking up all my time and energy and although I had planned to do more preschool activities with my son, he really ended up just doing puzzles or whatever off to the side because I had to be on top of my daughter the whole time!  It wasn't fair to anyone and by the time we got through our day I was spent and had no interest in engaging with them to do all the fun creative things that I really wanted to do.  The worst part was the resentment...why couldn't she just copy 5 words without taking an hour and all my emotional energy? Why couldn't she just remember what we had already learned? How can we keep going on in our curriculum when she keeps forgetting what's 7+2 and can't figure it out after a year of practicing it? I just wanted to give up (started learning about dyslexia).

Then I came across a video by Sandra Dodd, an unschooling advocate and she was answering the question of how much time do I need to give to my kids each day and she drew a simple graph...

Basically the youngest need the most mom time so no wonder doing a traditional homeschool curriculum felt wrong, I was spending my time backwards!  How often on homeschool pages do you see the question "what do I do with my little ones while we are doing school time?"  Now I'm not a full blown unschooler but leaning that way gives our family lots of grace to spend our days in a meaningful purposeful way together, without the stress that can lead to resenting the older children and having them under constant pressure while not spending enough time with the littles.  It allows us to improvise and do more learning all together with everyone included, which you will see in our examples of living math further down this post. And yes as I realized this mom time problem, I did consider and pray about putting my kids in school, but that wasn't the answer so last year I still struggled to let go of traditional school style and culture around education and step into the unknown so I bought the 2nd grade curriculum.  It was actually going pretty good a little easier than the year before as kids mature a little more each year but  something still wasn't jiving.

Sandra Dodd also said don't let your home become some miniature copy of a school...which resonated with me and the first book on homeschooling I ever read, The Thomas Jefferson Education.  I just kept coming across all these reminders of the original things The Lord had brought me to in my original quest into homeschooling but had forgotten due to insecurity and worrying what other people think...(a major weakness I have been overcoming).  She talked about creating and maintaining an environment where natural learning can thrive, creating a nest where it's not just the home environment but the family relationships within the home are crucial.  She encourages parents to learn about learning, not about school, but how real natural learning happens.  Be their partner (and mentor as Thomas Jefferson Ed  puts it) not their adversary.  Encourage, facilitate and assist.  See all that is good about your child (which I was having a hard time doing with the way I was doing school with her).  Be the kind of person you want your child to be, nurture your own curiosity and joy, find gratitude and abundance in your life....don't do what you don't understand, read a little, try a little wait a while, read a little more, try a little more, wait a while more...don't pull your plants up by the roots to see if they are growing.    That's not good for any plants or any children.  Be patient and trust that learning can happen if you give it time and space. Observe your children.  Are they calm? Happy? Curious and interestied in things? Don't mar their calm or happiness with arbitrary limits, shame or pressure.  Learning can't happen when people feel afraid or hungry so feed your children happily, share food and smiles and laughter. Watch movies and listen to music together, explore...follow information trails, play, make connections and touch your children sweetly, smell their heads, relax into an appreciation of each child in your life.  If you can envision the kind if relationship and life of learning you want to have then every time you make a choice, choose the one that takes you nearer to that goal.  Learn to make many choices a day and when possible choose the more loving, peaceful options.  Choose to make your life more positive and less negative.  Choose optimism, choose joy. Create good memories with your children.  Look directly at your children without filters or labels.  Babies are born whole people, help then to grow up and remain whole people, unmared by shame...paraphrased from Doing Unschooling Right by Sandra Dodd.  

As I've mentioned in other posts, I didn't feel led to sign up for Classical Conversations this year and my kids didn't seem to care but they did request to do the memory work at home.  My daughter loves learning through song and hand motions so we decided to do CC at home along with following Ambleside Online for a guide for each grade, leaving plenty of space for project based learning and to just be curious and spend time in the moment together, and being able to seize the teachable moments in a natural, unforced, meaningful way.  This year has been our most productive by far but I was still having my daughter do her Singapore math...that is the area I felt the least confident and bringing to life the way I was everything else.  

I poured over homeschool math options and was praying and seeking, but I couldn't settle on any one curriculum, even though I know they are great.  I knew in my head which math curriculums I liked and thought would fit our family but in my heart, I couldn't to it.  Why? I kept seeking and praying.  Then The Lord brought me to info about living math.  Well I'm not good at math so how can I teach without a textbook???  This seemed like more work for me not less! Shouldn't I just do Teaching Textbooks or Math U See?  Well who knows what the future holds but the answer and conclusion I came to was Living Math.  This means I have to face my insecurities, look at the how and why and incorporate what needs to be learned in hands on, fun ways.  Followed by some worksheet and or online practice after the concept is understood through hands on play, activities or life experience. This was a definite experience in learning to read a little, try a little, trust and see.  What I've found is that we can actually ENJOY Math together and it is sticking better than when we just stuck to the workbooks.  Also it's easy to include everyone and then take the concept further with my oldest while my Kingergarteb age son is still getting to play around and be introduced to math concepts beyond his level but enjoying it because we are having fun.  There is a website callee Living Math that I found the book Family Math and have been enjoying using that.  We also having been purchasing used through amazon or borrowing from library living math books. For worksheet practice we use either the math section of the big Brain Quest workbooks by grade or Math Mammoth worksheets, among other sources and practice online using websites like ixl, matific, starfall, and xtramath.  But mostly we are learning through hands on projects, games, role play, or just living and bringing out the math in our daily activities or things we cone across.

Here are a couple of the fun times and ways we've encorporated living math, just a sample not exhaustive of every single thing we do :) My point in sharing is to inspire some ideas and feeling freedom to step outside the box a bit if traditional methods are working as well as you like.  The great thing about homeschooling these days is we have do much information and resources at our fingertips and therefor can totally individualize and cater to our individual family needs and styles!

Making up stories for Remembering Odd and Even Numbers

Place Value

We love playing the game Dino tracks.  You can make the game more advanced with the playing cards giving lots of opportunity for more advanced math thinking or keep it simple to just becoming familiar with place value.

Millions of Cats - we borrow from the library frequently the book and audio cd set because they love this one! Especially my 5 year old! Now he's ways he can tell me how much he loves me first with a hundred much, then a thousand much up to millions, billions, trillions and finally infinity and beyond ;)

Geometry -Tangrams 

Cut out Tangram pieces using pattern and activity ideas from Family Math.  My kids kept going back to that book and their Tangrams daily for over a week on their own, fascinated by the puzzle and the culture, architecture and clothing in the book.

Wood Pattern Blocks


The Book Nature Math and the section about shapes and patterns in nature.

Symmetry, Mirror Image, Patterns Measurement and Perimiter

Concentric Circles-studying patterns and shapes in nature from the book Nature Math

Familiarity with a Grid
This game from Family math called Animal Crossing

Battleships - Santa brought it for Christmas

Card games such as war and they are starting to learn poker (with their dad) soon we will introduce the chips just for family fun no real money...not trying to teach gambling but it is fun playing some Texas Hold'em at a family gathering! The chips make it fun even if theirs no real money involved)

Also a print out activity from one plus one plus one equals one with an alligator mouth for the > and < symbols for practicing.   

All the skip counting songs from Classicsl Conversations memorized up through the 15s has made multiplication so much easier to learn!  

Little homemade Montessori multiplication grids are great too

This monster dice game is great for practicing addition, subtraction , multiplication or division 

Critical Thinking, Memory, Strategy
Playing Poker and learning/memorizing the different versions, rules, hands while having fun and bonding with dad!

Making Donuts for Division and Fractions 
we have 12 donuts and can make as many toppings as you like as long as we make an equal amount of each type. You want 3 toppings? Ok then how many donuts will be in each group? What if we did only 2 types of toppings? How many donuts in each group? What if we do 4? Etc?  Also when they are measuring ingredients I often hand them a smaller measuring cup so they have to figure out how many "scoops" of 1/3 cup to make 1 cup like the recipe says.  Casually practicing division and fractions while having fun making donuts! 

Money- counting, dividing, percentage, and life skills money management 

Counting out all the money and change, making dollars with different coin combinations of $0.25.  Introduce percentage and how to figure out 10%.  (We recently  did hymn study of Because I Have Been Given Much- not intentionally but it worked out to a good intro o this).  After taking out 10%, divide money in half, or 50% for spending and 50% for saving.  Child then has to work out how to divide the money into each jar.  We wrote in the too lid with a chalkboard marker how much is currently in each jar so we can easily erase and change the number as needed for keeping track.  I told my daughter she can give her money however she wants, to church, orphans, missions, or other charity collection boxes and coin rolling things at stores or if she knows of anyone she wants to give to.

For all these resources and more great living math resources, check out my Living Math Shop.

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