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Day 126 – Tutorial Tuesday: Math and Grammar Updates

Since we are coming near to the end of our homeschool year, I thought I’d write an update about how our math and grammar practice has evolved.

Most of our journey so far has been figuring out what works best for our family in terms of philosophy, schedule, and curriculum (or no curriculum). We’ve changed methods and ideas a lot.  It seems like every time I think we finally have it, something changes.

For the last several weeks, I’ve been using a consistent method and waiting to see if it would stick. Now that it has, I’d love to share our ideas with anyone who is interested in a balance between full-on unschooing and traditional homeschooling.

 Sera’s Math Story

 When she ended 3rd grade last year, Sera was trying to learn long division and she was very stressed out about having to “get it” on the 3rd/4th grade timeline. This year, I really wanted to let Sera take a break from math—to “deschool” from it for a year because it had been so traumatizing in 3rd grade.

Then I heard about a book called Family Math for Middle School Years. Family Math is not necessarily a curriculum, but a supplement. This book presents projects for algebraic thinking that someone might encounter in every day life. There are also games and brainteaser sorts of problems.

We tried one of the Family Math problems during a date, and Sera really liked it. However, she won’t be able to do all of the problems until she masters some basic elementary school math. We talked about this and about staying on top of math practice. I asked her what she thought about doing a bit more of a traditional practice every day, and she was on board. We talked about what we thought would be fair and manageable.

These are our rules:

1) Practice Every day

2) No more than 15 minutes each day

3) Master the first concept before moving on

4) Move at your own pace

This is how we decided what to cover:

After some sleuthing, I figured out what 4th graders are “supposed” to know. I think you know how I feel about the pressure this puts on kids. I am just using the information as a LOOSE guide, and to see what people usually teach first. I decided that Sera would master division (since that’s what she had been learning when 3rd grade ended) and then move on to fractions. I haven’t looked ahead past these two concepts because I figure they will keep us occupied for a while. I don’t know how long it will take Sera to master division, and it doesn’t matter to me. I want her to learn the material without pressure and to feel confident. I already see a difference. She begins her math practice obediently and without fear or anxiety. This is invaluable to me.

This is what it looks like:

I’m still not using a math book. I just write out 4 long division problems a day and she completes them. This takes her about 15 minutes. If it takes longer, we stop and pick it back up the next day. We are working on dividing 3-digit numbers by single-digit numbers, with or without remainders. I just write random problems for her and it works fine. This looks like:

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Sera was familiar with the basic rules of division from 3rd grade, but I still had to re-teach them. Her biggest problem is remembering the order of the steps. She knows and understands the math. When it comes time to work on fractions, we will most likely watch Kahn Academy videos together as I teach her.

 Amelie’s Math Story

Amelie loves math. This is DNA that we obviously do not share. Nevertheless, I’m obviously very thankful. I can show her a new concept in one day and she really gets it and retains it. It just clicks with her.

These are our rules:

1) Practice Every day

2) No more than 15 minutes each day

3) Master the first concept before moving on

4) Move at your own pace

This is how we decided what to cover:

 I recently checked on what she should be learning in 2nd grade, but for whatever reason, she basically knew all of it already. I realized that she had been memorizing the multiplication tables on her own for most of this year. She also had taught herself to tell time from workbooks and Kahn academy. So after this revelation, we decided to just move on a head to 3rd grade math. We recently found Adapted Mind, which is a math website that offers practice, videos (it links to Khan academy), and lessons categorized by grade. This is very helpful. The cost is $10/month to join, but it has been totally worth it for us. Amelie does online “worksheets” and can only move on when she understands the first concept. This does the homework for me, as far as knowing which concepts to focus on and in what order.

This is what it looks like:

iPad

We started on Adapted Mind’s 3rd grade math track. Amelie mostly works independently. If she has a problem, I sit down and teach the concept to her.

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Or, sometimes, Sera teaches it to her. Once when Amelie was having a problem with rounding to the thousandths, Sera sat down and explained it to her in a bout 3 minutes. It was pretty awesome.

 Grammar for Both Girls

I have been using the same Charlotte Mason Simply Grammar book for a short morning lesson each day with both girls.

These are our rules:

1) Practice Every day

2) No more than 15 minutes each day

3) Master the first concept before moving on

4) Move at your own pace

This is how we decided what to cover:

We skipped a LOT of the beginning of our grammar book because the girls were already familiar with the material (what a subject and a verb are, etc.). We flipped through the book together until we found information that was relatively new to both girls and just started from there.

This is what it looks like:

As I mentioned before, Amelie loves math, but she detests anything writing-related. I find this extremely interesting because Sera is my logical science-loving child, and Amelie is my emotional, free-spirited dancer. Yet, Art and Music come naturally to Sera, and Amelie is really good at puzzles and has a fantastic memory. None of these talents necessarily “belong” together or don’t belong. This is why we can’t pigeon hole our children. There are endless factors and combinations of things that determine who they will be. So, my passionate poetic girl prefers logic and math to creative writing. It is all very fascinating to me.

Major differences aside, we follow one grammar curriculum for both girls. There is plenty to learn that neither of them knows, and I figure it can’t hurt Sera to review the basic building blocks of language (preposition names, parts of speech, etc.) even if she is familiar with them already.

But, because they are so different, we supplement differently. Right now I don’t stress Amelie out by making her write too much. She practices grammar, punctuation, etc., largely by copy work or writing letters to her friends. For Sera, her practice comes through writing stories and poems.

 Schedule

 So, what does our day look like now? Well, I’m still a huge believer in self-motivated learning and project-based homeschool as well. This means our math and grammar only take up about 30 minutes of our day.

 We usually do our lessons in the morning, right after we read the bible and pray. But sometimes it’s later, and more rarely now, we don’t get to it at all. I’ve found the practice of doing something consistent, but SHORT is very good for all of us.

The rest of the day is spent building, playing outside, imagining, watching documentaries, reading, or going on field trips.

This is not strictly “unschooling” and it is not a very structured traditional homeschool method either. But it works for us, and I think it strikes the right balance for our family and our needs.

I hope our story has helped!

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