As our homeschool journey began, we learned math through measuring sugar and oil to help mommy make chocolate chip cookies. We discussed subtraction when we popped a few scrumptious morsels in our mouths and budgeting when we embarked on the adventure known as grocery shopping. We sang our numbers and skip counting when we played hopscotch on the basement floor during the remodel of our family home. When songs and leveling scoops of flour and teaspoons of vanilla ceased being enough, we moved on to stacking blocks and sorting groups of Cheerios in yogurt cups after nap time. As pre-school gave way to grade school, our “Math Zone” erupted with timed addition drills and computer flashcards and second-hand Saxon math textbooks. The names of families before us, who cried tears and conquered fractions, were scribbled on the front cover of every textbook and teacher guide. We were very good at doing our meeting strips the first few weeks of each semester. Then math was factored in somewhere between breakfast and read aloud. . . between self-employment and church ministry. . . between spelling and art messes. Yes, you must do all the questions in the lesson. Yes, you must write the problem. Yes, you must show your work. Yes, you must go back and correct your mistakes.
Arithmetic always ranked high on the list of “must dos” even when life collided with school and the proverbial pie chart of learning-time skimped on academic sweetness. What I mean is, we always did it. Always. The routine was 5-10 minutes of warm up with flashcards or drills or computer games followed by 45-60 minutes of lessons and problems. Even when “unschooling” moved in, we held on to the tradition of “math zone” just after breakfast. When accidents moved in and routine moved out, math was done. When WE moved out and crisis moved in, math was done.
I am thankful for Cyberchase on PBS for supplementing our math ideas. I am grateful for pioneers in the homeschool world who gifted us Saxon texts and fellow new-schoolers who shared texts for every age and every year until we hit Algebra. We all enjoyed our rendezvous with Dr. Stan Schmidt and his clever math series, Life of Fred. No other textbooks are like these. Each text is written in the style of a novel with a humorous story line. Each section tells part of the life of Fred Gauss and how, in the course of his life, he encounters the need for the math and then learns the methods. These books are designed to make your child THINK! and to learn on their own. While it does not give step-by-step directions and answers to every question, they learn to apply to current questions the concepts previously taught. Upon completion both the students and I began to understand how math works, why it works, and how to apply it.
“Math Zone” changed with Algebra. I needed a text that would teach the children without me. As the kids grew in age and I waned in understanding, patience, and time I needed something new. That is when Teaching Textbooks entered the equation. The lectures on the CD-ROMs with audio presentations accompanied by step-by-step written explanations showing how to work each problem were a huge weight off my shoulders. The lectures were interactive, requiring students to answers questions from time to time, both to keep them engaged and to test their understanding. The screen designs were colorful and nicely illustrated without being too busy. It was a perfect match. . . for a season, and when we kept track of the disks.
The oldest has graduated and moved out on his own. I see him using his math skills applied in writing music and selling his time as a web designer. He encounters the need for budgeting and bill paying and we get to walk through our first tax lesson next week. I am sure he will have questions about percentages as we devour a dozen chocolate chip cookies to sweeten the bookwork as we have in years past.
As I am preparing “Math Zone” for the girls this semester, it is time for change again. Math has been slipping. Routine has been slipping. Time is slipping. Pardon the pun, but, you know what happens after you miss math class? It starts adding up. In response, we will be starting a new program, at the advise of a dear friend who has walked the homeschool journey almost as long as I have. She is encouraged by the success of her students, the ease of use, technological instruction and cumulative learning approach needed in math. I am excited for math zone to begin tomorrow. I am encouraged to have a moment to reflect on our journey thus far and having a slice of the pie chart to write and share. Pray for us as we embark on the journey known as CTC Math and continue our learning for life, at home.