Homeschooling Math: It Shouldn’t Be This Hard in Kindergarten

Homeschooling Math Current Programs and Ideas for LaterIn last month’s update I avoided discussing math, instead promising that it would get its own post.

I’m not completely happy/content/certain/what have you when it comes to math for G. On one hand, he’s 5, and I know there are studies that show some benefits to delaying formal math instruction. On the other hand, we don’t live in an area where that is commonly done, and if he were to need to go into public school, I don’t want him to be too far off track of what is being done there. So I’m not completely comfortable delaying, despite those studies.

However, making math a BIG DEAL with lots of drill and repetition seems to be going too far in the other direction and risks making him hate math and school. And possibly me. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Mathematical Reasoning Level AI don’t want to bounce around between programs; I’d prefer to find something and stick with it, on the assumption that that will minimize gaps. My early math education ran into that when we moved to different states a couple of times during my elementary school years. I’d be ahead on some things, behind on others, and wound up never covering certain topics at all.

Despite this desire to pick something and stay with it, I’ve somehow managed to accumulate and (partially) use a variety of programs and items. And yet I’m still not sure what I want to use next year and in the more distant future!

What We’ve Tried

Singapore Earlybird AWe started with Critical Thinking Mathematical Reasoning books. These are super colorful and fun, and the early ones especially aren’t workbook-like at all. Even though they are workbooks – they were fun enough for G, and easy enough, that he’d quickly blast through 10 to 20 pages at a time, and ask for more.

Interspersed with those books were Singapore Early Bird. We both preferred the Critical Thinking books, which seemed to cover just as much, without being as repetitive or boring.

RightStart Math Level BAfter much online reading and forum-stalking I became very intersted in the approach of RightStart. Turns out a friend had level B and wasn’t using it, so she’s loaned it to me to try it. I want to love it – I love the background behind it’s creation, I love the idea of it, and I love the strong math foundation I think it’d give G. We had a glorious honeymoon with it for about 2 weeks, and then he hit one concept that didn’t come instantaneously, and has avoided it ever since. Teaching it is also much more of a hassle than pulling out the CT books, so I haven’t really encouraged another try at it.

I also don’t like how the books are structured, and find it hard to teach from them. The way the math is done is different enough that I do need to use the books; it’s not like I can just wing it even though it’s elementary-level math. I’ve done some reading online and apparently the second edition is better for that, so maybe I’d be better off getting the newer version? Or maybe I should accept that this isn’t going to be the best solution for us?

Miquon OrangeIn the “I keep forgetting I even have this corner” I’ve also got the Miquon books and Cuisenaire Rods.Learning Resources Cuisenaire Rods Introductory Set: Connecting Why did I get them? They’re so cheap! But they’re so confusing for me to teach – the books seem so random, and what exactly am I supposed to be doing with the rods? We’ve done almost nothing with these, so I guess I’m extra glad that they were inexpensive. I probably should just sell them, but I hold on to them thinking maybe I’ll figure them out to use with one of the younger kids. The rods at least are a hit with my 5 and 3 year olds, although they don’t really use them for anything math-like beyond lining them up in rows.

Looking Ahead

Teaching Textbooks 3Long term, I don’t know what we’ll do. The CT books claim to be a complete curriculum. Do they give enough practice though? Does it matter at this age? At what point does practice become an issue? I read great reviews about Teaching Textbooks, but I also read that they’re way behind grade level, and don’t go into enough depth to provide for a strong math background looking ahead to college and some careers. I’ve also read the same about Math-U-See, and the way it’s structured feels like I’d really be locking us into continuing with it so it’s not one I considered for long.

What I want is a program that teaches what he needs to know, in order to not close off any options that he may want later. I want him to be able to go into any career he wants, and not be limited based on what I did or didn’t do for him educationally. I want to set him up for success. His dad is really good at math, and uses it every day in his work. He definitely wants all the kids to have a great math education. (I’ve been saying “him” only because I’m not yet doing anything for my girls, not because I think math only matters for boys. Not at all!)

Math Mammoth 1ATwo other ones I’ve been eyeing are Math Mammoth, which he could begin immediately, and Beast Academy, which starts with third grade. Math Mammoth is inexpensive, so I might end up giving it a try if I need something beyond RightStart. Beast Academy might be what I work toward for him; it’s colorful and looks like it’d be fun, and yet it’s put out by the Art of Problem Solving people, so I’ve got no worries about its rigor. That would also set him up to move into AoPS books when he’s in middle school and high school. Assuming his talents point in that direction. ๐Ÿ™‚

Beast AcademyOne thing I have decided, after writing all this out, is to get back to RightStart and give it another try. As I write this we’ve got 11 weeks of Sonlight left, and if I stick with RS during all of that, it should be a good enough trial run to determine if it’s a program that will work for us at least short term, or if I should return it to my friend and move on to something else (like Math Mammoth) for 1st and 2nd grade. And maybe I’ll try and find some tips on using Miquon as well, before completely writing that off as a possibility.

I never expected math to be such an issue, especially at this young age!

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  1. DarnHeather says:

    In Kindergarten math I played a lot of games with my children, had them string beads, sort things, had them play with rulers, thermometers, and dominoes, and we baked a lot of cookies. After that I began Developmental Mathematics which goes through advanced algebra in a steady logical procession. My oldest had trouble with algebra so I’m using Painless Algebra with her this year and will finish up DM next year before moving on to geometry and pre-calculus. For calculus I plan to send her to the local junior college.

    I believe that the US school system pushes children too hard too soon. Most European countries do not start formal schooling until the age of six or seven and they do just fine. Enjoy your little ones and don’t worry about what the public schools are doing. If they wind back up in PS then they’ll catch up with some assistance or even be ahead.

    • If I was completely confident that we’d wouldn’t put the kids in public school I wouldn’t worry so much, but that is an issue for us. Catching up with assistance feels like it might set him up to be pigeon-holed in a way I don’t want. Maybe I’m just thinking of what it was like when I was in school, but it definitely seemed like the kids who needed extra help were looked down on, and that reputation lingered.

      One of the reasons I like homeschooling and wanted to do it is so that the kids can learn on their own levels for each subject, and not be tracked to a specific grade across subjects. And yet I don’t want them to get too “behind” what they’d be doing, so it seems like I’m not taking advantage of that benefit anyway.

      Thanks for the advice, and the reminder that it doesn’t need to be so formal right now. My kids would love the bake cookies component of your kindergarten program. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • DarnHeather says:

        My oldest daughter went to public school for sixth grade and half of seventh. In sixth grade math she was behind because we hadn’t done fractions yet. She went to an after school program with about 15 other kids (who had always been in public school) out of the 55 kids her grade level for about two months before state testing. She passed with ease. Seventh grade saw her caught up and in honors algebra, but we had too many issues with the middle school that is for a whole other post! Hugs, they will be fine I promise!

  2. For Miquon math, you will need other support books (not really teacher editions) to help you understand what to do with the rods and what the workbooks cover. One plus to these is that some public schools use curriculum supported by “rods” or “counters” which help children grasp the fundamentals of mathematical operations through the use of manipulatives. For learning math facts, we used “learning wrap-ups” for drills. These are a more active way to practice math facts without students merely spouting them orally. You might look into those as well. Whatever curriculum you choose, my suggestion is to try having “fun” activities associated with math and not just a workbook approach. PS-we completed the homeschool journey 5 years ago and I am amazed at the volume of new materials produced in that time; seems a bit overwhelming!

    • Glad to know that I’m not imagining Miquon being non-intuitive to use.

      I’ve seen those wrap-ups (on Timberdoodle’s website I think?) but wasn’t sure if they’d really be that useful. Nice to hear that they are, and anything that avoids handwriting will likely be a plus for my son.

      We’ve been playing lots of math games this week, which I thought my son would like, but at the end of the week he asked to just do two pages in the workbook instead of the games. So either the games we were playing weren’t a hit, or he was bored with them, or he just wanted something faster that he could be done with and move on to something else.

      It kind of is overwhelming all the options – I keep having to tell myself that nothing is perfect, and if we find something “good enough” it’s probably better to stick with that and not keep thinking something else would be better.

      I love hearing from people who have completed homeschooling – it’s very encouraging!


  1. […] mentioned in my math update, I did give RightStart B a good try, but I continued to dislike teaching it, and G continued to […]

  2. […] in December 2014 I wrote about the issues I’d had with homeschooling math in kindergarten. I didn’t realize it’d been that long since I wrote specifically about math, beyond the […]

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