We are currently homeschooling our two youngest kiddos, Rowan and Robbie, who are 6 and 4. We mostly unschool at this point, honestly because between our jobs and working on the house, that’s what we can handle. And so far, it seems to be working.
Yet there are skills I want to spend more time with, especially with Rowan, and math is one of them. As I mentioned in a previous post, he’s interested in math and confident in his abilities, and I’d like to keep building on his current knowledge and really make sure he’s got a good grasp on math concepts.
We’ve been casually using an online curriculum (one that says it’s geared for ages 3-9, but which we waited to start using because it requires reading). However, our subscription expires tomorrow and I’m not sure I want to renew it.
Which means I need to figure out what to replace it with. Many unschoolers would counter that I don’t, that they can learn just fine using games and real-life situations and other resources. While that may be true, math is one of those areas where I tend to veer off from the more radical unschooling approach. Although, to be fair, sometimes I do wonder if I just feel the need to teach him certain skills so he can understand what he’s being asked on tests (like number lines, for examples) or if I think they will actually help him learn. But I digress.
So I spent the last hour online looking at math programs. I’ve narrowed it down to a few based on reviews I’ve seen in homeschooling groups, cost, and certain criteria.
Rowan took a placement test for Beast Academy today, and he scored in the range that we could use it, but it took him long enough and the program is advanced enough (the first level is geared toward age 8-9) that I worry he might not be quite ready for it yet. I really like the look of it, though, and I’ve seen it highly recommended, so we may buy that in a couple months or even next year.
The other curricula I’m looking at are Math Mammoth, FreeMath, and Wild Math.
Math Mammoth is a workbook (with some optional online supplemental materials). I’m not super into that, but it does cover the basics really well and emphasizes conceptual understanding rather than just rote memorization. It’s reasonably priced (although we’ll have to print it) so it might be just what we need to lay a good math foundation and fill in any gaps.
FreeMath is an index of all the skills that are typically taught at each grade level. You go through the list, and any that your child can’t do yet or well, you can print out worksheets to practice. And it’s free. I kinda dig it, because we can skip stuff that he knows and focus on lagging skills, although again, very worksheet heavy. Of course I could go through the skills and figure out some non-worksheet activities to teach/review them, but I’m just not sure I have the time, energy, or creativity in this season of our lives.
Finally, one I’ve been thinking about since Rowan was in preschool: Wild Math. This curriculum takes those basic math concepts and moves them outdoors. The manipulatives are natural objects: rocks, sticks, flowers, shells. It appeals to my sense of childhood being focused on play, wanting to spend most of our time outdoors and engaging all of our senses. No worksheets or screens! Buuuut it takes some more time and prep on my part. It’s ideally what I’d like to do, but would take some additional work to fit it in. We still haven’t really established a rhythm for anything yet, and this would definitely require that. That being said, it might be a good complement for the other worksheet-heavy options, and I know the boys would love having me do more intentional activities outside with them (rather than just having them play while I work on projects).
There is no right answer, of course, which makes it even more difficult. Also trying to avoid the shame-game thoughts of “It’s October already! This is the research you should have been doing over the summer!” Eh, well, the two more basic paid curricula are not that expensive, so maybe I’ll just get all three, see what works for us, and write up my thoughts at some point in the future. I know I always like to hear real-life reviews.
And hey, if you’re a homeschooler, of whatever flavor, and you’ve used a math curriculum you want to share–or aren’t into curricula and have suggestions for learning math in other ways, drop a comment. I’d love to find out more!