March 30, 2010


Has anyone else noticed that homeschooling is a journey that takes you, as the primary educator, on roads you previously thought were too wild to traverse?

I'll put it more plainly. I used to think most homeschoolers were loonies. Whacked. Crazy. Etc. I joined the homeschooling scene hesitantly--secure in my decision, but entirely skeptical of other homeschoolers. I was a "retired" public school teacher, for heaven's sake. And now, two years in, I still vacillate between joy at the incredible richness of experience available to those of us off the beaten path and a deep-seated fear that I am getting as loony as the looniest of the homeschoolers.

My decision to stop teaching math is a prime example. (That was a joke--prime, get it? That's about as good as my math humor gets.) I have noticed lately that my Miriam is starting to dislike math. She still loves her math analogies and problem solving strategy books--but the math workbook that goes over the same thing so many times that we both want to pull our hair out? That has to go.

I've been counseling people for years to ease up on the reading anxiety. That learning to read can't be pushed. That children mature differently. Provide a literacy-rich environment and the child will learn when he is ready. So why is it so hard to apply those same principles to math? Is it my fear that she'll fall dreadfully and irretrievably behind? Please. She's a smarty-pants. Is it my fear that my hubby will freak out? A little--but he usually comes around.

Okay, I'll admit it. It is my fear that I won't be able to provide a math-rich environment for my kids. It isn't that I can't "do" math. It's that I don't enjoy it. Creating a literacy-rich environment in my home is a joy. A delight. I can create an atmosphere so literacy dense you can taste the words when you walk in the room (and step on one of the 40 books scattered on the floor) without any effort on my part. It's as much a part of me as breathing.

Math is different. Math is . . . work. So much work. I don't know the best math children's books. I don't know the best math games. I don't know where the best resources are located online. I have no idea how to create a math-dense environment in our home. Work, work, work!! It would be so much easier to just stick with the math program we've been using. But I can't.

So here I am. Facing yet another of those dark, overgrown, tangled homeschool roads that I thought I would always safely avoid because only loonies walked it.

Any suggestions would be appreciated. I'll keep you posted on how it's going. I feel confident that shoving traditional math in the garbage is the right thing, but oh it is hard to inch myself onto this particular path.


  1. I seriously could have written every part of that post. Wow! I'm with ya! When you figure it out let me know!

  2. I am certainly not planning on a traditional approach to math, either. My memories of learning math in school center around one word: "Huh?" :) BUT, I just don't have the confidence to shape my own math program -- even for grade school math (I'm not worried about anything beyond that -- if they want to learn algebra, geometry, calculas they'll be learning it on their own! :) ). So, I decided to go with a packaged math curriculum: Math-U-See. Like any other curriculum, I'm taking a chance that it may not work for my kids, but I figured I have to start somewhere! I read reviews (if you're thinking this route, check out -- it's extremely informative!) about it and its "competitors" (Saxon math, A Beka, Konos) and talked with my cousin who is currently using it and ultimately decided it would be a great fit for my way of teaching (it's hands-on and the sequence of learning makes sense to me).

    Anyway, there's my two cents. I want to emphasize, though, that I am NOT into "big box" curriculums. I just don't know how that can work when you have kids who all learn differently. So everything else I do with homeschool, I put together myself -- math is the only thing I just don't feel comfortable teaching on my own. :)

  3. Andrea - I have tried several cirriculums. Love some, hate some. But my kids to "begrudge" their mathbooks. Well, John does anyway. Addie grumbles because she's Addie (secretly she really likes it). It has been the best thing for Brooklynn to use Saxon Math. Repetition is very good for that child. I know this is going to sound very cliche - but my kids really only love math when I get excited about it (like when I read Fermat's Enigma . . . with you!). :-) Others of my favorites:
    - Mathematicians are People, Too
    - Life of Fred math books (probably around 4th/5th thru high school)
    - The Number Devil (4/5 & adults)
    - Living

    I recently checked out Math and the Mona Lisa. It's about Leonardo Divinci, but I didn't get to read it because it had holds on it at the library. Grr...

    Anyway, all I can say (and I'm really working on this myself) is that the technical stuff will come. My husband has been very leery of me taking away the mathbooks, too. And I must admit I'm afraid when my kids go out in public they won't know 2x2 and that will reflect badly on ME! But, I'm working on letting that go and just making it fun so that later they will want to do the technical stuff.

    There you have my very honest and humble opinion! :-)

    BTW - tell me what else you find!!

  4. Andrea,
    I had a similar situation when Hannah was younger. I stopped doing math because she was starting to really hate it (2nd/3rd grade-ish). I knew she was somewhat behind her peers after a few years, but didn't worry too much. When she went to 5th grade at public school she knew she was behind her peers because they all had their multiplication tables memorized and SHE DIDN'T (not from lack of effort on my part, she just wasn't interested).
    Luckily, as you know, the first few months are all review anyway. Hannah caught up and surpassed her peers in math. And now she considers it one of her favorite subjects and studies it willingly (another shout out for Life of Fred - she loves it!).

    Did I create a math-rich environment? I don't know. It's definitely not my forte. My forte is books - partcularly history. So we did books for math, books for history, books for art. Books, books, books! And, somehow, all my kids are loving math.

  5. Math is not something I get excited about either. In fact it makes me very nervous! I am using Saxon for the 2nd year for my 3rd grader, but also use other workbooks since it can get a little boring, I guess. I try hard to use math in every day living and get excited when I see an chance to teach math without using a worksheet. For example, we got invited to an Easter egg hunt and had to bring 6 eggs per child. My daughter figured out how many we had to bring and was quite pleased with herself! Good luck to us all! :)

  6. Check out There are some people there who are great at surrounding kids with math in many creative ways. I, on the other hand, hang out on the list just to pick their brains since I'm exactly like you. :)

  7. I second, more especially, the yahoo group. My son basically blew off math for the 4 years he homeschooled (5th - 8th), which are really formative years. He's the kind of contrary child that others would deign to homeschool. I decided to unschool him rather than fight. He jumped into 9th grade algebra, without even a firm grasp on fractions. He got straight A's. Kids are resilient, have brains like sponges, and we could all relax just a little bit more. Enjoy the journey!! Sally :)