Posted in Curriculum - Robinson, Our Adventures, Subject Math

The Robinson Curriculum and Math: Observations After 3 Years With 3 Children

1117094_73120387This is our family’s 3rd year of using the Robinson Curriculum and its approach to education with our children.  Prior to using the Robinson Curriculum, we used a traditional program for mathematics, which basically entailed working through one grade-level course per year.

In June of 2010, our family began using Life of Fred (LOF) math because we felt it was the most cost-effective, comprehensive, and challenging math program available for our children.  After we began using the Robinson Curriculum in September of 2010, we continued to use LOF even though the Robinson Curriculum recommends Saxon math.  We chose to continue with LOF for reasons of cost and comprehensiveness and also because we felt that its emphasis on individual learning would work well with the Robinson Curriculum, which is based on teaching children to teach themselves to learn.

The Robinson approach to math differs from the traditional approach in that it does not recommend using only one textbook per year.  Instead, students work through their math lessons systematically at the rate of one lesson per day (1/2 a lesson if the material is difficult; perhaps 2 or more lessons if the material is easy).  If a student finishes a text before the school year is done, he simply moves on to the next text and continues through that text in the same fashion.  Here is an overview of how our oldest two children have progressed using this approach:

938467_84469631End of Grade 7:

  • Gentle Giant (age 12): LOF Fractions
  • Spunky (age 11): LOF Fractions, LOF Decimals and Percents
  • Notes:  As you can see, Spunky is a little more ambitious when it comes to doing her work.  Gentle Giant was more than capable of doing Algebra I/LOF Beginning Algebra at this point but instead chose to take a more leisurely approach to his math studies.

Grade 8:

  • Gentle Giant (age 13):  LOF Decimals and Percents, LOF Pre-Algebra I with Biology; LOF Pre-Algebra II with Economics; LOF Beginning Algebra.
  • Spunky (age 12):  LOF Pre-Algebra I with Biology; LOF Pre-Algebra II with Economics; LOF Beginning Algebra.
  • Notes:  LOF Elementary Physics had not been written and was not available at this time.  Also, LOF Pre-Algebra II with Economics can count toward a high school economics credit.

Grade 9:

  • Gentle Giant (age 14):  LOF Advanced Algebra
  • Spunky (age 13):  LOF Advanced Algebra and LOF Geometry

Grade 10:

  • Gentle Giant (age 15):  LOF Geometry, LOF Trigonometry, LOF Calculus
  • Spunky (age 14):  LOF Trigonometry, LOF Calculus, The Mechanical Universe, Beyond The Mechanical Universe
  • Notes:  Spunky only completed up to page 181 of LOF Calculus since that is the end of high school math, which is enough to start on the Robinson Curriculum science program.  She does not wish to work through the LOF College series at this time.  She is currently working through the Robinson Curriculum’s physics texts at a rate of approximately 2 lessons per week.

Another key component of the Robinson Curriculum‘s approach to math is the program’s insistence on a minimum grade/error rate (95% or 1 error per 20 questions) to be maintained in each course in order to ensure mastery of the material.  Gentle Giant and Spunky both received 100% or nearly 100% in every math course using this approach.  Spunky currently has a 98% average in her physics course.

1056140_68191710With younger children, ie. prior to LOF Fractions, the Robinson approach is to drill the math facts until the student knows them cold.  We have combined using flashcards, wrap-ups, etc. with the LOF Elementary series for our little ones (after covering numbers and counting, of course!).  We chose to use the LOF Elementary series as well as drilling the math facts because we really like how the LOF Elementary series gently introduces mathematical thinking to little ones and also because Delightful insisted on doing LOF like her big brother and sister.  In addition, Delightful found working with flashcards to be a little too laborious at 4 years old.  However, she still wanted do school and we didn’t want to kill her love of learning at such a young age.

Our basic approach to teaching math to little ones is to work through LOF until it starts to get too difficult and then take up to 6 months off for drilling math facts, playing math games, and doing math-related activities before starting LOF again.  Here is how Delightful has progressed so far using this method:

Junior Kindergarten (age 4):  Numbers and counting to 100, LOF Apples, LOF Butterflies, LOF Cats

Kindergarten:  Delightful insisted on skipping kindergarten and we allowed her to do so because she was more than capable of doing Grade 1 work.

Grade 1 (Age 5):  LOF Apples, LOF Butterflies, LOF Cats, LOF Dogs, LOF Edgewood, LOF Farming

We are currently about halfway through LOF Farming but Delightful was finding that it was becoming too challenging.  As such, we will be using her princess flashcards and other materials for the next few months until we start up with LOF again.

The above is just one example of how one can progress through math using the Robinson Curriculum.  Every family and child is different, so the rate of progress will differ depending on one’s circumstances.  Here is just one general and relaxed approach to using LOF with the Robinson Curriculum for math and basic higher-level science:

Grades K to 4: 

  • Numbers and counting to 100
  • LOF Elementary series, consisting of Apples, Butterflies, Cats, Dogs, Edgewood, Farming, Goldfish, Honey, Ice Cream, and Jellybeans
  • LOF Intermediate series, consisting of Kidneys, Lima Beans, and Mineshaft

Grade 4:

  • LOF Intermediate series, consisting of Kidneys, Lima Beans, and Mineshaft

Grade 5:  

  • LOF Fractions
  • LOF Decimals and Percents

Grade 6:

  • LOF Elementary Physics

Grade 7:

  • LOF Pre-Algebra I with Biology

Grade 8:

  • LOF Pre-Algebra II with Economics
  • LOF Beginning Algebra

Grade 9:

  • LOF Advanced Algebra
  • LOF Geometry (may take a full year)

Grade 10:

  • LOF Geometry (may take a full year)
  • LOF Trigonometry

Grade 11:

  • LOF Calculus
  • The Mechanical Universe

Grade 12:

  • Beyond the Mechanical Universe
  • Chemical Principles

943188_71871756Of course, many students will progress at a faster or slower pace.  The key is to remember the following advice from the author of LOF:  There is no rush to get through math.  Hold off on LOF Fractions until age 10, if possible.  Do not start algebra until your child has “hair under his armpits” (unless, of course, your child is advanced and is more than ready to tackle the material).

If you are unsure about using LOF as your math program, consider this review of its higher-level math texts at Homeschool Christian by Elliot Robinson:

Over a shorter time period and for significantly less money, Life of Fred: Trigonometry and Life of Fred: Calculus cover more material than other high-school level textbooks.  Even though they add in additional material, they fail to pick up the dryness (and boring redundancy) present in most high-school/college books.  For anyone interested in learning higher-level math with the least amount of stress and the most fun possible, I strongly recommend Life of Fred.

We strongly recommend both Life of Fred and the Robinson Curriculum.

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