We’ve been delving into more formal math lately. I’ve purchased and just received a set of connecting cuisenaire rods, the first two workbooks in the Singapore Math Earlybird Math series, and the first two workbooks (Red and Orange) of the Miquon math program. BTW, M just turned 4.

All this buying of math curricula seems almost like it is going against the direction we are heading in, homeschooling-wise. The more reading and thinking I am doing, the more we are heading in the unschooling direction. But at least for me, math seems to be the one subject where I feel much more comfortable using a curriculum. But I don’t plan to follow the curriculum blindly. I’m going into this knowing that the main reason I’ve bought this stuff is for my own piece of mind. Even though I did very well in math when I was in school, I still seem to have this anxiety of teaching math to my kids. I’m afraid I won’t know or remember all the concepts, or know how to explain them. So I’m going to use the curricula first and foremost as a tool for teaching myself.

Here are some of my thoughts about the curricula, after two days of having it:

Earlybird math seems very simplistic, and half of the first workbook is much too elementary for M. It might have been fun to do with him when he was three, but it is much too easy for my 4 year old. Many of the concepts in the first half of the book would be (and have been, in our case) much better taught through real life than through a worksheet (go unschooling!). But as I got to the middle of the 1A workbook, I did find some useful stuff. M liked the colorful pages, although they were still easy for him. The interesting thing was that even though I could imagine that the authors of the workbook imagined a very definite set of “right” answers (picture a teacher in a classroom grading them with smiley faces :-P), M and I had some great conversations about different ways to do the pages, which was very educational. I do think that as the worksheets get more complicated, we will get more out of them.

I am VERY impressed with Miquon math. Arp and I looked through the books a little the other night. I was impressed how they get you teaching many different topics in math, from addition, to number lines, to multiplication, right from the beginning. I also like how they lay out a concept and it is up to you to teach it in a way that makes sense. It isn’t just worksheets with things to circle. You can approach each concept from a variety of viewpoints, and see how different concepts are interrelated. And the book of annotations helps to calm some of my math anxiety.

As I said, I’ve become more and more interested in the unschooling perspective. So the challenge for me will be to apply the math concepts to our everyday lives. We are doing that already, especially when it comes to cooking. M loves to measure things, and I am hoping that this will gradually help him to understand fractions a bit. But I definitely want to make sure the math curriculum doesn’t take over. “Real life” should be his teacher.

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