Saturday, January 3, 2015

How We Teach Math In Our Homeschool :: Life of Fred Review

Teaching math in our homeschool could become a really overwhelming task.  Mostly because I don't see myself as a mathematician.  Not even close.  However, there are some wonderfully gifted people out there who do have the ability to write easy to follow math curriculum.

We have tried many things through the years, but Life Of Fred has been the most effective and painless way to present math to my children.

In the early learning stage, I use basic everyday life to teach number recognition.  Using objects around the house to teach basic adding and subtracting.  I found this wonderful set of tactile numbers on Etsy that the kids love tracing with their fingers.  They also enjoy watching Math Circus and other Leap Frog videos.

Once I feel they are comfortable with their numbers, I introduce Fred.

Fred, a silly little made up guy that the author uses to teach big concepts in a storylike way.  The first book in the series is titled Apples.  The concept is simple.  Read a short chapter, answer a few questions that relate to the concept taught in that chapter.  It has an easy natural rhythm.

- 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. Tons of solved examples. Each hardcover textbook contains ALL of the material – more than most instructors cover in traditional classroom settings. Includes tons of proofs.  taken from Life of Fred website

If you are a fan of worksheets and countless math problems, this curriculum isn't for you.  It really goes against the way we were taught in public school, and really the way most other math curriculum's are written.  But, different can sometimes be a very good thing.

I have to add here that I did make basic addition and subtraction flashcards out of index cards.  We go over them a few times a week.  I like that the kids can answer simple math problems without even thinking about them.

As you would expect the books get more complex and there are more questions per chapter.  But, they still do not have the pages of problems we are used to seeing.  One of the things my sons appreciate most is that each book tackles a specific mathematical concept.  They really feel that they have a chance to grasp it before they move on to the next concept.

- IMPORTANT NOTE: These books are designed to make your child THINK! and to learn on their own. 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 they will understand how math works, why it works, and how to apply it. They will know the formulas and how to apply them in real-life situations, not just situations created for a textbook. This program relies heavily on reading comprehension and thinking, not rote spoon-fed learning that is quickly forgotten. Parents can learn these novel methods along with the student, but should not try to integrate the traditional rote/memorization methods. 

The books are divided into different groups.

There are 10 books in the Elementary set.  The Intermediate set has 3 books and is designed for fourth through sixth grade.  Before High School Math offers 5 books in the Pre-Algebra set, and the High School set tackles Algebra through Trigonometry.  If you have a budding mathematician you can keep on learning with University Mathematics.

Another thing that I really like about the curriculum is that the books are non-consumable.  Each book is a sturdy hardback book that can be passed down and reused for each of your children.  The answers to the questions are just written down on notebook paper and placed in a binder.

To learn more about Life of Fred and buy the books either individually or in sets, head over to their website here.  To learn four reasons to choose Fred click here.

So there you have it.  Math 101 in our homeschool.  What do you use in your family?  Successes and failures....


  1. Oh, I so wish that Fred would have worked with my crew. It is funny! It is fun! It is just the way I want to teach! Sadly, I had to admit that my two oldest love workbooks. LOVE them. *Sigh*

    It is okay if I live vicariously through you though, right? I'll look at your pretty pictures and imagine how much fun it would be to teach LOF.

    1. That's so cute, of course you can :) It is amazing how different they all are. I have one child that only wants textbooks and another that is completely a hands on learner. Thanks for visiting!

  2. That sounds like a great way to teach math. I am not a fan of math, so I'm hoping school will teach my children well.

    1. Thanks Karen. Its wonderful that as parents we don't have to know everything all of the time :)