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What about MATH? (Part One)

We took two days off to visit with our friends from England. While I have nothing to post from our day, I would like to talk about something that is on everybody’s minds when discussing “Unschooling.”

What about math?

There is no way I could articulate everything I have to say about this in one blog post, so this will have to be an ongoing discussion.

My friend Alana posted this article, which I think is brilliant, and I hope it will get your wheels turning if you are thinking about unschooling but nervous about not using a math curriculum. I will focus more on that article in a later post. However, today, I would just like to talk about my personal experience with math:

During high school, I excelled in every subject except for upper math. It did not come easy for me, but I also did not have any desire to learn it.

The summer before my senior year I took a 3 week intensive summer school class with a really great math teacher so I could get a high school diploma with the most basic math requirements.

Fast forward 13 years. As a 30-something, I decided to go back to college to obtain a degree in English. I was so nervous that I would need remedial math because while I was good with basic math, I had not done that well in Algebra.

I remembered zero. Absolutely nothing. Nada. NO algebra from high school. For about 3 weeks in the summer, I studied every day using Kahn Academy. I studied basic stuff like decimals, exponents, and enough Algebra to brush up and prepare for my entrance exam. When I took the exam, I learned that I was completely prepared for college level math–just from my 3 weeks of self-study.

For my degree, all I needed was a “math for liberal arts majors” class and I would be on my way…except the class was full. I really wanted to take the math course when it was fresh in my mind and I wanted to get it out of the way my first semester. So what did I do? I registered for the next level class: College Algebra.

I had barely passed math in high school, and technically did not have the math credits required for a college prep diploma. But you know what? I got a B in College Algebra because at that point in my life it mattered to me and also because I studied my arse off.

Depending on their desired professions, my girls may or may not need upper level math. If they decide they do, I fully believe they can study and learn it just like I did. Of course, I do believe they need a basic foundation. This is why we play math games, practice multiplication, and teach basic, relevant math at every possible moment.

For me, Unschooling does not mean I do not teach…it means I don’t follow a rigid course outline or curriculum, and it means I allow the girls to learn and study what interests them. But I am teaching and they are learning all of the time. 

  • At the grocery store they help me count change and keep a tally of the budget
  • During science experiments they weigh, measure, add, multiply, divide, and average
  • For fun, they like to play math games online
  • Amelie got tired of not being able to read a clock, so she taught herself how by watching Kahn Academy videos
  • Sera is hoping to start her own business and will be using and practicing basic math every day
Amelie "playing" with her math blocks and using her calculator just for fun.

Amelie “playing” with her math blocks and using her calculator just for fun.

These are just a few examples. I know this is the part of the Unschool show that makes us seem a little crazy, but I hope it is an encouragement to any of you who are wondering if you can do it. You can.

I’ll post more on this again, but for now I’ll leave you with this article by Sandra Dodd, which also includes some mathy resources.

Look at the things on the list that naturally come up in your life. Don’t look at the things that don’t! It isn’t a checklist to see how many math activities you can complete. It’s meant to show you that there’s more math in life than a checklist or a curriculum lets you see.

Look for the math in your life today!

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  1. Such a great story! I say the same thing when people ask about the SATs and stuff like that. If that’s something my kids need to do for whatever path they choose, they can spend as much time as they need learning the test. No need to ruin a perfectly good childhood with it! ; )
    I think so many of us have blocks about math because we were taught in a vacuum with no absolutely no context whatsoever. Learning to problem solve is so much more fun AND it sticks with you. Thanks to unschooling, even I like math now. : )

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