Monday, January 12, 2015

Relaxed Homeschooling: Mathematics in the Early Elementary Years

This is the second week in the 2015 Virtual Curriculum Fair, in which we share bits and pieces of our homeschool, and discover how others run their homeschool!  It's a great mid-year project for evaluating our homeschool and determining what's been working, or not, and determine how to move forward.  The VCF as it is known, is hosted annually by Susan at Homeschooling Hearts and Minds, and this week's co-host is Laura @ Day By Day in our World.

This week's theme is Discovering Patterns:  Mathematics, Logic and Science.  This theme is geared towards anything math:  arithmetic, mathematical thinking, numbers, logic, critical thinking, and even the math-related sciences.  I'll be focusing primarily on the math aspect.

My goals for early elementary math are to create an understanding and appreciation of numbers, patterns, reasoning and logic and how they affect our daily lives.  Through the preschool and Kindergarten years in particular I want to keep it light and informal, like this New Years Numbers Sensory Bin.  As they get older we start doing more formal math, but I still want it to be hands-on and practical, so the kids understand how and why math is used in every day life.  Our math is a combination of "curriculum" and living math.  I find it important to follow the child's lead, and go at their pace.

Second Grade

My second grader is doing Math U See - Beta.  We used Alpha (my review) in 1st grade, and he loved the DVD and the kinesthetic approach with the blocks.  However he grew bored with it, and I had heard from longtime MUS users that Alpha is the hardest to get through because of its narrow scope and sequence, so we shelved it.  The whole Relaxed Homeschooling thing definitely came into play here.  We switched to playing games, reviewing, using online websites and of course doing living math.  I was okay with not finishing out the year with a curriculum.

At the start of 2nd grade this year, we dabbled with some online curricula, but I was getting met with resistance.  He requested to return to Math U See, so I moved him into Beta and he's enjoying math again.  Admittedly, I don't follow the workbook as designed, we move a little more quickly through it right now because that's what is working for us, and what works is all that matters to me.

For variety in our practice, we also use our IXL review subscription to practice concepts we've learned in MUS, or to practice concepts he's interested in.  He really likes this website, and it's goal oriented, which works well for his self-competitive nature.  It's also great for letting him work independently.

Obviously, you can use any curriculum in a relaxed manner, or none!  It's really about focusing on the child's needs and desires, and not worrying about pushing through a specific curriculum at a scheduled pace.  For us, it's about mastery of content, so following the public school calendar or the publisher's recommended schedule is not a priority.

Emory, as I've said before, is a young five.  His math is much more casual.  He adores Mathseeds most days, but he also likes having a "math book" as well.  I still had the Singapore Kindergarten Book A (Elliott skipped the first book altogether when he was in K) so Emory has been working through it.  Again, we go at his pace.  Some days one page is enough, and some days he blows through several lessons.  Respecting his natural timeline is what is most important to me.

Living and Hands-On Math
Five in a row is actually very helpful for this.  Each row helps you cover non-traditional math lessons in a fun way.  We do a lot of cooking with (or inspired by) the Five in a Row cookbook, which is great for measurements and fractions.  Some rows have us estimating, sometimes we discuss calendar concepts, or we create patterns, or count money or measure objects with rulers or yard sticks.  We typically take a day off from our "regular" math when we're rowing and enjoy a hands-on activity or two as presented in the manual.

We also use living math books, board games, card games and fun math apps.  I keep math manipulatives of all sorts on hand and accessible.  Using math outside of workbooks and curriculum helps us see the practical, everyday, useful applications of math.  In fact, usually by the time we get to these types of concepts in our curriculum, we just review it and move on, because we've spent so much time practicing the skill in real life.

Plus it's fun to get hands-on and creative!

Relaxed Homeschooling requires more of a go-with-the-flow mentality, and I know that can be hard, especially in a content subject like mathematics.  Society tells us that every child should learn XYZ and 123 in a certain order, and they should learn it by a certain age or else they are going to fail.  Really though, most children can learn what they need to know without it being spoon fed through a structured curriculum.  Give them a real reason to learn it, allow it to make sense on their terms, and facilitate their learning.

Week 1 - Relaxed Homeschooling:  Language Arts in the Early Elementary Years
Week 2 - Relaxed Homeschooling:  Mathematics in the Early Elementary Years
Week 3 - Relaxed Homeschooling:  Science and Social Studies in the Early Elementary Years
Week 4 - Relaxed Homeschooling:  Fine Arts in the Early Elementary Years

2015 Virtual Curriculum Fair
If you're curious how others teach math, what curriculum they're using, or you just need some inspiration, check out this week's articles.  If you have a post that fits the theme, please look for the linky and share with us!

Graphic Credit:  StoryRock

Learning about Patterns in Our World Through Math and Science by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World

Using a Bible-Based Math Curriculum by Tauna M @ Proverbial Homemaker

Math, Science and Logic for 2015 by Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses

Playing with Numbers by Sarah @ Delivering Grace

Unschooling Science by Kristen H. @ Sunrise to Sunset

Logically Speaking: Math, Science, and Logic for 7th Grade  by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool

Numbers and Molecules! by Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays

Math and Science in Our Homeschool by Jennifer @ A Glimpse of Our Life

5 Math & Logic Resources We Love by Becky @ Milo & Oats

Giving Your Kids The Right Start With Math by Amy @ One Blessed Mamma

Math in Our Classical / Charlotte Mason Homeschool by Sharra @ The Homeschool Marm

Classical STEM by Lisa @ Golden Grasses

Math, Science and Logic - How do we Tackle Them? by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

The Physics of Delight-Directed Learning by Susan @ The Every Day of Education

Tackling High School Science by Debra @ Footprints in the Butter

Choosing Math Curriculum for Special Learners by Heather @ Only Passionate Curiosity

Math for all ages by Denise @ Fullnest

Middle School Monday - Math With Fred by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break

Learning With Math and Science Resources  by Leah @ As We Walk Along the Road

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  1. We use Singapore math which is really great. My 6 year old is on a 2nd grade level partly due to the Singapore Math method, partly due to how early I started introducing math to them, and partly because she enjoys math much more than writing assignments. I wish I had a post to link about it, but I don't. I still enjoyed visiting your blog though.


    1. I've heard great things about Singapore, but we've only used the K books. It's definitely on my short list if we ever switch away from MUS though.

  2. We are taking a very relaxed approach to math with our youngest kids this year and I am repeated surprised at how much they have learned and retained. I've heard great things about Math U See, we may go in that direction next year.

    1. Yes, it's interesting how in-depth the learning can still be with a relaxed approach!