Posted in Curriculum, Subject Math

Frustrated with Fred

After years and years of using Life of Fred math, I have finally come to a point I never thought I’d come to:  I am frustrated with Fred.

Currently, I have two students using Life of Fred’s Elementary series and here is our experience to date:

Student 1, in Grade 2, is working right on track through the texts but has had to put Fred on hold until she fully understands certain concepts.  We read our way through Apples to Farming this year with little trouble.  However, everything fizzled out in the first chapter of Goldfish when suddenly this question appeared in the Your Turn to Play section:

Find a value for y that makes this true: 2y=10.  2y means the same as 2 times y.  2y means the same as 2 x y.  2y means the same as y + y.

This was the sum total of the student’s first introduction to the concept of multiplication.  My daughter’s response?: “Huh????”  And so we have been taking a break to understand a lot more of what multiplication is and how it works.  My daughter picked up the idea right away once I explained it to her (for free!), but Fred’s explanation just wasn’t working.  The thing is, I think math programs should be able to clearly introduce and explain concepts to young learners without making huge conceptual leaps.  After all, that’s why parents buy them, isn’t it?

Student 2, in Grade 5, has in my opinion stalled in her progress with Fred.  She completed up to Ice Cream in Grade 2 and this year made it to the beginning of Mineshaft.  That means there has been some progress.  However, this student has needed a ton of help from me to make it through each text and still cannot make it through Ice Cream without help even though she has been through the text at least 5 times.  The difficulty seems to be the way Fred introduces and explains concepts (often in the Your Turn to Play sections and not in the main text); the gaps between introduction of concepts and further review, especially with concepts like area and perimeter; and a lack of practice with new concepts to make sure they are fully grasped before moving on.  Normally, I would not mind filling in gaps in understanding, but in this case, due to the way the texts are laid out, I cannot just flip back in a chapter to find the information needed to re-explain a concept.  I often find myself searching through more than one book trying to find out where a concept was first introduced and then later reviewed so I can thoroughly help my child.  This is time-consuming and, frankly, annoying.  This particular child is extremely intelligent and should be able to easily master fractions and decimals at this age.  And yet, we are still not in those texts and are not having fun trying to get there.

Overall, I have come to agree with the following criticisms by Charlotte Web of the Life of Fred curriculum:

On Fred’s lack of really teaching number sense:

Yet, in LOF regarding the sums of tens this is written, “Write all the pairs that add to ten (Edgewood, pg.77).”  That’s it.  This does not develop a child’s number sense.  Children need to know how to play with numbers, how to break them apart and combine them in different combinations. Other curriculums help children develop number sense through teaching different ideas or strategies that they can use when adding and subtracting, such as “adding one more than a sum of ten” or “adding one more than a double.”  These strategies are not just to help a child memorize their facts, but they serve to teach a child number sense, or how to think mathematically.

On the explanation of new concepts like long division:

My issue with long division is not that it could not be self-taught according to the book, but simply that the math is not explained clearly.


The LOF curriculum is not clear and is difficult to self-teach in that there is an illogical presentation of mathematical concepts.  Huge jumps are made from one concept to the next with little or no practice or explanations in between.

You can read Charlotte Webb’s whole review here:

As a result of our frustration, I decided to supplement Life of Fred with another math program.  We settled on Math Mammoth for reasons of cost, quality of instruction, and ability to use semi-independently.  Student 1 is currently working through the Grade 2 text and is enjoying it so much she wants me to buy MM’s stuffed mammoth mascot to go with it.  Student 2 is currently working through the Grade 3 text.  I had to put her back to Grade 3 math because that is the level that introduces fractions and decimals and also reviews concepts like time and money.  Sadly, no matter what program I chose, this student would have been in Grade 3 or 4 math due to the scope and sequences of various programs.  This is a huge frustration for her, but she needs the extra instruction and practice in approaching math problems in different ways without making careless errors.  I plan on using MM and LOF together for the foreseeable future.

Since purchasing MM’s first 3 levels, I have also learned about another math program that I am exploring.  It is called Strayer-Upton Mathematics, and it sounds incredibly amazing.  I particularly like the format since everything is all in one book and the concepts are thoroughly taught with application to the real world.  I am looking into whether or not it would be overkill to use SU with both MM and LOF or whether I should just choose between SU and MM for grades 4-8 (please comment if you can speak to this!).  One thing is clear, though:  LOF is becoming a fun review and supplement for us, but we need a program that clearly teaches number sense and mathematical concepts to go along with it.  Sadly, LOF is no longer that type of program for us.

Posted in Education, Education & Homeschool News, Higher Education, Reading & Literature, Subject Bible & Theology, Subject English, Subject Math, Writing & Penmanship

Education Around the Web, December 2015


Some recent education-related headlines:


Home schooling of 20,000 children across the country will be reviewed amid fears they are being ‘radicalised by parents’

UK government mulls ‘crackdown’ on homeschoolers

Higher Education:

Oklahoma university president: School is not a ‘day care’ or ‘safe space’


Harry Potter in schools ‘offends religious parents’: Teachers accused of exposing children to ‘witchcraft and Satanism’ when using books in the classroom

One in eight children have never been given a book: Study also finds pupils who read outside of school are five times more likely to be above expected level for their age

Philadelphia high school removes Huckleberry Finn from curriculum because its racial slurs are ‘challenging for students’

Parents’ outrage after Virginia high school students are asked to practice calligraphy by writing ‘There is no god but Allah’

Teachers should ban times tables tests to stop children developing a crippling fear of making mistakes, says leading academic


Blind seven-year-old girl who was banned from using her white stick because it could trip up teachers will go to another school after being ‘forced out’ by online campaign

Christian religious assemblies for children should be scrapped along with segregation of pupils by faith says ex-High Court judge

Tell pupils that Britain is Christian, schools are told as Education Secretary vows not to force teachers to spend time on atheism

(Updated) Kid’s toys are recording and transmitting every conversation

Posted in Education, Education & Homeschool News, Higher Education, Leftism in Education, Public Education, Subject English, Subject Math, Subject Physed & Health, Survival, Writing & Penmanship

Education Around the Web, November 2015


I have been very busy for the past few months and have rarely had both hands free at the same time, making it next to impossible to write blog posts.  However, I have been able to cobble together a few education-related headlines from this past month.  Here is what caught my eye:


School to homeschoolers: Sign up or face criminal charges

Leftism in Education:

Children as young as FOUR being given transgender lessons which encourage them to explore their ‘gender identities’

Dumbing Down of America? California School District’s New Grading Scale Gives out Cs for “Doing Absolutely Nothing at All”

Ontario elementary teachers to integrate transgender content into the “teaching of all subject areas”

Primary school BANS blind seven-year-old girl from using walking cane ‘because it could trip up teachers’

Utah school homework assignment to make propaganda poster for jihadi groups: “JOIN ISIS!”

Higher Education:

Universities Have Become Totalitarian Gulags


It pays to be good at maths! Nigerian professor solves 156-year-old Riemann problem to scoop $1 million prize

Ontario math scores remain low in latest round of testing

Primary school bans pupils from wearing goggles in swimming lessons because ‘they don’t prepare youngsters for emergency water situations’

The intricate handwriting and perfectly penned sketches of a 1930 schoolgirl that came to light when her satchel was found in a school clearout are a fascinating insight into a bygone age


How starting school at seven can improve concentration at 11: Holding children back a year is found to reduce inattention by 73%

Praise hard work, ignore grades and NEVER tell them they’re clever: Super-tutor who has taught royalty reveals how to get children ‘addicted’ to learning

School leavers are unemployable because they can’t speak properly, says business leader

Posted in Education, Education & Homeschool News, Higher Education, Leftism in Education, Reading & Literature, Subject Bible & Theology, Subject English, Subject Math, Subject Philosophy, Writing & Penmanship

Education Around the Web, October 2015

990536_37770166Some education-related headlines I encountered this past month:


Growing up homeschooled: Photographer’s intimate portraits of children learning outside the conventional classroom walls

‘Hate’ for homeschoolers rattles Marine who served in Iraq


Can YOU solve the maths problem Scottish schoolkids couldn’t? Exam question slammed as being far too difficult

Children aged 11 who can’t write their own name: Popularity of computer games means secondary school pupils lack basic skills

Common Core gets a Fail for common sense: Angry parents baffled by third grade math question that claims 5+5+5=15 is NOT correct

Detroit Public Schools: 93% Not Proficient in Reading; 96% Not Proficient in Math

Grades for US schoolchildren fall: Only a third of the nation’s eighth-graders are now proficient in math and reading

Schoolchildren aged 14 left traumatised after being told to investigate child murders as part of their philosophy homework

Leftism in Education:

Chicago Public Schools Mandate Sex Ed for Kindergarteners

Fury after children as young as 13 are made to write a fictional ‘suicide note’ for GCSE English homework

Obamacare causes Tennessee district to close schools over lack of funding

Principal holds up student election results because winners not diverse enough

‘This is racist in every form’: Florida mother’s outrage over Middle School ‘Lifeboat Test’ where students forced to choose between saving Barack Obama Justin Bieber and Donald Trump

VIDEO: Student says TX teacher forced 7th graders to deny God is real, or take a failing grade

Higher Education:

Counselling services at college have doubled because millennials are having ’emotional crises over everyday life’, psychologist claims


Can you believe this essay is handwritten? Chinese school forces pupils to write English letters like a computer – and each character must be identical EVERY TIME

Despite lack of funding, parents increasingly choose independent schools in Ontario

Girl, six, sent home on school bus in just a shirt and underwear after her pleas to go to the bathroom were ‘ignored by teacher’ and she soiled herself

Schools will start telling pupils they should have children as early as possible to avoid fertility problems

The ‘no-tech’ school where screens are off limits – even at home

Posted in Subject Art, Subject English, Subject Math, Writing & Penmanship

How Can We Expect To Advance If We Keep Starting Over?

Aaron Jagt:

school-clipart-6“Recital, the act of copying or repeating, is the most basic and fundamental process of learning. Most of the study of mathematics is simply the repeating of processes of increasing difficulty… Upon understanding this, isn’t it strange that copy work in art and writing is sneered at and discouraged? Instead students are taught to be critics, with classes on how to dissect and analyze the works of Shakespeare; and are told to be “original thinkers”. So now rather than standing upon the shoulders of the giants of our past, we are teaching our children to tear them down, to start from scratch in a futile effort to think of something completely different. If there was nothing new under the sun when Solomon was around, how can we expect to advance if we keep starting over?”

Read more:

Posted in Early Learning, Daycare, Preschool, Kindergarten, Education, Education & Homeschool News, Higher Education, Leftism in Education, Nature Study, Public Education, Subject Math, Subject Science

Education Around the Web, June 2015


Some education-related headlines from the past month:


Early Academic Training Produces Long-Term Harm

Boys of 5 already lag behind girls: Experts warn early gender gap means many youngsters never catch up

Half of the first graduates forced to pay £9,000 a year for university say their degrees were NOT worth the money

‘Hannah eats some sweets. Calculate the circumference of Jupiter using your tracing paper and a rusty spoon’: GCSE students complain about hard #EdexcelMaths exam

Primary school slammed for putting a ‘ceiling on ambition’ after segregating children aged just FOUR based on academic ability

Students give their verdict on universities: Third would choose different course if given another chance as thousands say they are badly run and poor value for money

The Finnish Secret to Successful Students

Three in four school leavers ‘are struggling with maths and literacy’: Companies taking months to fill junior roles because many teenagers lack ‘crucial skills’

Want good readers? Keep kids from school, parents told

Why isn’t science fun any more? Elf ‘n’ safety! Schools have ditched experiments because they’re scared of risk, expert says

Daycare and Early Learning:

Babysitters having sex, children kept in a basement and a nanny who confessed to never holding the baby: Parents reveal their nightmare childminder horror stories

Is the Common Core killing kindergarten?


Home Schooling in Canada: The Current Picture – 2015 Edition

Rousseau, apostasy, and homeschooling

Liberalism, Secular Humanism, etc. in Education:

After a shocking confession by a colleague a former teacher asks: Why ARE so many women teachers seducing boy pupils?

Burbank High School teacher’s Shakespeare aversion draws national attention

Council sparks outrage by asking children as young as nine whether ‘it is OK to marry someone from a different race or religion’

Italian Families Protest Forced Cross-Dressing of Schoolchildren

Kindergarten Kids Dragged to the Toronto Gay Flag Raising 2015

Public schools called ‘gigantic criminal enterprise’

Pupils as young as 10 quizzed on radicalism: So-called counter-extremism questionnaire asks children how far they would go to defend their religion

Schools Told to End Religious Instruction and Teach Morality Instead

Selfie With Parents’ Sex Toys? Alameda Teacher Accused Of Assigning Bizarre Extra Credit For Sophomores

Student allegedly threatened with failing grade for including Biblical references in group presentation

Teachers complain, chaos reigns as St. Paul schools spend millions on ‘white privilege’ training

The school that says there’s no such thing as a naughty child: Primary bans teachers from raising their voices and refuses to judge its pupils


A third of new graduates get jobs which don’t require degrees as number ending up in menial work doubles in seven years

Growing up near parks and woodland ‘boosts a child’s memory and thinking skills’, study reveals

Posted in Education, Leftism in Education, Public Education, Subject Math

How to Add According to Common Core