Today’s Math

For new homeschoolers or soon-to-be homeschoolers or thinking-about-being-a-soon-to-be-homeschoolers I thought it might be helpful to see some more detailed run downs of how this is working – for us at least.  So today I’ll tell you about math.

Math is the hardest subject we do, but not necessarily because the subject is all that hard. It is because there is a lot of it and it takes focus and concentration. We do our math first thing in the morning. I’ve heard people say it is better to do the harder stuff first (you know, work before play) but I’ve also heard it the other way around. I’m a more work-before-play kind a of gal, so that’s that.

For Saxon math, which I do really really like, my 3rd grader (in the 4th grade math) does a timed test of 90 to 100 division or multiplication problems, some mental warm up math, a short lesson and lesson practice that we do together, and then 30 mixed problems practice which include questions requiring him to use all the skills he has learned up to that point in the year. He is a whiz at this stuff… as long as I am sitting right next to him reminding him to keep working.

It is beyond aggravating.

Today we got done with the 5 minute timed test probably in less than 10 minutes. This is a good thing. In fact, this is a wonderful thing! We would have gotten it done faster but I didn’t figure out this little trick until the first 5 minutes had already past. My son loves games and he loves to play. Sometimes I point to each problem as he completes them and then move to the next. I feel this helps him keep focused. Well today he started getting a head of me so I said, “ok, I’ll point to each problem until I count to five and then move to the next one. See if you can stay ahead of me ,but if I catch you,  I win.”  Well, what do you know? Less than five minutes later the entire thing was done and of course everything correct.  This was wonderful, especially because sometimes it takes him 30 minutes to complete the 100 problems! Except why do I have to be there sitting by him the entire time? Have I enabled him? I don’t really think so. I think he just has a hard time focusing. Anyway, any suggestions you have would be really appreciated because MATH I can do, teaching FOCUSING though doesn’t look like my strength.

The same holds true for the 30 minute practice problems. There are days, although sadly not many, where he just finishes the entire thing in 20 minutes or so and everything is correct. Easy peasy. And then other days where I have to remind him to look at his paper every 3 minutes. for an hour. or more. The one tactic I KNOW works is if I am sitting right next to him, reading the questions with him, and then asking, “Ok, what do you think you need to do first?”  Then he’s good and can get the whole thing done. I don’t even do any of the math, he just needs me to be there focused on him so he can focus on the task at hand.  But the question keeps coming to my mind, “When are you old enough that you should be able to do your math assignment totally independently?” Because I would really like to know. (I DO like being with him, but you know, there are 4 other kids in my house. And my slightly facetious question above is actually quite sincere. I am perfectly happy to stay with him and help him but I just think eventually we’ve got to move on. I’ve got a kindergartner next year, too, and it would be helpful if I could either clone myself, or have the older child work a little more independently by September.)

We put a new desk in his room. So sometimes he works there. Today this is what math looked like.

And then he came back to our “learning table” and it looked like this.


And actually he said at one point he was UNDER his desk in his room. And some days he does his math lying in his bed. Because it’s warm. I’m not going to lie. Some days I would like to be lying in my bed during math time too.

My daughter has the same problem, although not to the same degree. She’s a 1st grader in 2nd grade math, again with Saxon. She also has timed tests (25 problems and we are up to the x 4s!) I should mention I don’t actually TIME my children. I tried to 2 years ago and the anxiety was so bad that we had to stop. It just wasn’t worth it. Today in her math she was making graphs titled Sum of Dominoes and something else having to to with randomly picking dominoes out of a bag and graphing the sum again. The graphs were supposed to look similar – you know, probability and all. Theoretically that should of happened.  Sometimes, though, these things just don’t work out exactly according to the book. And the toddler was throwing fits so the sweet math student let him pick the dominoes of the bag for her. That calmed him down. And then EVERYONE wanted to pick out the dominos…

This is pretty typical for us. Things generally go well. They sometimes go fantastic. And they occasionally go nuclear. So if you start to feel like we here at The Honest Homeschool, or any other homeschool family or website just have it all together and are doing such fun crafts and activities and field trips and science experiments and live in a Pinterest fantasy land, just remember we do math for an hour and a half EVERY DAY. first thing. every. day.

But you know what? My kids are great at math. And a year ahead of schedule! And they like it! (I know! What?!) And as far as learning math goes, that is what matters most.