I thought some more about unschooling math last night and decided that I would share some stories from the experiences we have had with our girls.
About the time that I felt God was leading me to unschooling math was the one thing that I worried about the most. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was because I worried that they would get cheated at the store if they didn’t know how to work with money or if they didn’t know how to do certain problems then “I” would look bad. The bottom line was I needed to put aside my pride and place full trust in that fact that the one who created my kids created them to be able to learn and gain the knowledge they needed when they needed it, or most importantly when they were ready.
I did a lot of just observing my kids the first few weeks that we completely left any structured learning behind. Aly had a cardboard log cabin that her grandpa had given her and she was huge into pioneers. She wanted to build a fence to go around the cabin. So I got out the craft sticks we had, glue gun and the glue sticks. She is just 7yo at this time. She decided she wanted to glue them flat on top of one another and that they would be 6 high. She made one and then without prompting from me took that section and marked around the cabin to see how many she would have to make total to cover the circumference. I was amazed…it was math but she wasn’t crying! See, math+Aly+mom= crying x 2. So then since I was running the glue gun she would say…”I have 4 craft sticks glued, I need 2more” or “I’ve got 7, here take one so I only have 6.” I almost couldn’t contain myself but I somehow managed to keep my mouth shut so that I didn’t step in and mess up a totally natural learning experience. She made all of the sections she had estimated she would need and her estimate had been right. When the fence was done she was off in her imaginary world and I was floating on cloud 9.
Both of the bigs have learned coin value just by helping us count the change in the change jar and rolling it up. They played store with real money. Concepts of change took a while to learn because like most kids when they would give someone a dollar and then get back 6coins or so they would think that they had more simply because they had more pieces. An understanding of value came when they started spending money in the store.
Games that we have played over the years include home made and store bought ones. We have tangrams, tangoes,measuring tapes, rulers, paper, pencils, calculators,measuring cups, clocks, watches…you get the idea. Sum Swamp is a fun one for addition and subtraction facts. One we have right now that SiSi loves to play is Countdown. In this game addition, subtraction,multiplication, and division are used. I have made foam dice before and we have just rolled them across the room and then solved the equation. Flash cards are boring to most kids and I have a few boxes of them. When Sisi discovered them one day we wound up making a hide and seek game out of them. I would pick 10, hide them and she would find them and then solve the problem. These were all of her choosing.
One day a neighbor gave Aly a folder full of math worksheets that she had had for her kids as reinforcement activities through the summer. Aly showed them to me and I thought for sure they would just sit and be left alone. However she took them out and started working on them and taught herself with a little help here and there how to divide. She was ready and she wanted to learn. It clicked and again there were no tears.
One day we were all reading a book about ocean life that Sisi was given as a gift. We were reading about the giant squid and it gave the measurements. The girls wanted to know just how big that was, not in just words but as a visual. So we took out the heavy duty tape measure and began marking off the length in the front yard. They were amazed that a giant squid would have taken up the entire front yard!
Admittedly I have one that is more math inclined than the other. Right now there are some things we are looking into in regards to Aly that look like they will explain why she has always had such difficulty with math and the memorization aspect. She can do the work but it isn’t there on an instant recall basis. This frustrates her and has begun to effect her self esteem. Still I wouldn’t change anything that we have done because she has shown that when the mind is ready it will learn.
The public school system puts a number on when things should be learned leaving a lot of kids either bored because they are ahead of that number or behind because their minds are not ready to connect and learn those things.
I don’t believe that every child is ready to read by the age of 6 or that multiplication should be memorized by the 4th grade.
Each child is unique, they learn for the way they were wired. I have 4 children that I interact with everyday and they all learn differently. Just think about which kid did what at what age etc. Some walk early, some talk later, some have great motor skills that keep you hopping because the dining room table isn’t a place to climb. One will sleep better than another, one likes this food, the other doesn’t. One can sit still and listen to a book, another has to be doing something in order to listen. If they develop differently then it goes without saying that they will learn differently.
If you google search “unschooling math” lots of articles will come up. This one is my favorite.
A good book to read is “Better Late than Early” by Raymond and Dorothy Moore. Sadly these two people aren’t with us anymore but their wisdom lives on in this book and the others that they wrote.