The number one sign your kids are just borrowing your faith is that they rarely, if ever, ask questions.
This is an update on what has happened since I got Frustrated with Fred.
For the past few weeks, Delightful, 10, has been working through Math Mammoth 3 in order to solidify her basic math skills and learn some topics and problem-solving methods that she had not covered in Life of Fred. Since we are trying to accelerate through levels 3, 4, and possibly 5, we have been doing more than one chapter at a time in order to keep the program from becoming too tedious. On average, we have been doing 4 pages a day, spread among the 5 chapters of level 3A. This means it is taking longer to complete each chapter than it would if we just worked straight through the worktext.
Today Delightful wrote her first test, and to be honest, I was a little concerned about how she would do. Even though the math being covered is not overly challenging for her, kiddo does have a tendency to make careless errors, even to the point of accidentally leaving certain questions blank and forgetting to do them. Today I need not have been too worried, though, because she scored 100% on her test! Yay! Now she is jumping for joy and starting to think that maybe she isn’t so bad at math after all. Kudos to Math Mammoth for rebuilding her math confidence!
A poem my mother always used to quote to me. I thought I should learn more of the words:
Try Try Again
by T. H. Palmer
‘Tis a lesson you should heed,
If at first you don’t succeed,
Try, try again;
Then your courage should appear,
For if you will persevere,
You will conquer, never fear
Try, try again;
Once or twice, though you should fail,
If you would at last prevail,
Try, try again;
If we strive, ’tis no disgrace
Though we do not win the race;
What should you do in the case?
Try, try again
If you find your task is hard,
Time will bring you your reward,
Try, try again
All that other folks can do,
Why, with patience, should not you?
Only keep this rule in view:
Try, try again.
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: https://theparentsreview.wordpress.com/2014/02/28/life-of-fred-math-as-serious-as-it-needs-to-be/
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.
One bird we hear more than we see in our backyard is the beautiful Northern Cardinal. Delightful, 9, loves to imitate their call and have conversations with them. We usually see the females more than the males, at least at bird feeders. Here are a couple of pictures of what the females look like:
And the males:
Northern Cardinals make calls that sound like birdie-birdie-birdie and what-cheer, what-cheer. They also make a loud chip call. Wikipedia describes the calls as follows:
“Both sexes sing clear, whistled song patterns, which are repeated several times, then varied. Some common phrases are described as “cheeeer-a-dote, cheeer-a-dote-dote-dote”, “purdy, purdy, purdy…whoit, whoit, whoit, whoit”, “what-cheer, what-cheer… wheet, wheet, wheet, wheet” and “cheer, cheer, cheer, what, what, what, what”.“
Here is more on the song:
For more information on the Northern Cardinal, visit Cornell’s page here:
An excellent article from Wheat and Chaff:
“It seems to me that when a person is converted to Christianity as an adult, and then becomes a parent, there is a common pitfall they fall into. It is not easy to recognize the real nature of our fallen state, and it is the most natural thing to love our children dearly and want the best for them. So it seems common that this adult convert to Christianity will believe, perhaps even only on an unconscious level, that his children can be spared all the pain and sorrow that he himself experienced from falling into sin, if only he raises their children right. He will simply put in place all the right rules, strict discipline, and thorough indoctrination in the Christian faith, and the result will be that his child will have a relatively trouble-free life, without falling into any of the gross and destructive sins which he himself experienced…
Background: I saw these books in Veritas Press’s catalogue. After looking at sample pages of them, I thought I would give them a try with my history-phobic 5th grader. This review is from a confessionally reformed perspective (original Westminster standards).
Verdict: I would use these books as supplements in my homeschool, but only with my own edits and commentary.
What I Liked:
- The concept of weaving history facts into a fictional adventure is intriguing and attention-grabbing for students who don’t take to traditional history materials
- It is nice to have a supplemental overview of many of the highlights of world history
- Despite being overviews, the books contain an abundance of historical information. What isn’t directly in the text is placed in sidebars throughout the books so students can learn even more about the cultures being studied. For example, there is a chart about Egypt’s many gods and a photograph of the Rosetta Stone in the section on Egypt.
- The books introduce the reality of persecution, which is something Christians have had to deal with for centuries and of which children should be aware
- There is a lot of great theology in the books. In particular, the sovereignty of God in history is repeatedly emphasized. Students also learn about the inherent sinfulness of humanity and how it relates to different historical events and political arrangements
- The books present the Creation, Fall, Deluge, etc. as actual historical events, which, from a Christian perspective, are
- The books present more than one point of view on different topics such as “manifest destiny” so that students can come to their own conclusions
What I Didn’t Like:
- Although the concept is great, I would like to have seen more:
- more about the persecution of Christians in the main characters’ time and how they deal with it; and
- more incorporating history facts into the actual plot instead of just telling them to students
- At times the books seem preachy, with the characters travelling from time to time just to receive a series of lectures. As in the last point, the books would be even better if there was less telling and more showing. Of course, that would have made the books longer, which is also a consideration to take into account.
- There are numerous Third Commandment violations/minced oaths that I had to edit out, ie. “Jeez” and “Sheesh” for “Jesus”
- There are instances of bad language that I had to edit out, ie. “heck” for “hell”
- There are several Second Commandment violations/images of Jesus that I had to edit out
- There are some factual errors I had to correct. For instance, Volume 1 states that Noah’s Ark landed on Mount Ararat, whereas the biblical text states “the mountains of Ararat.”
- Sometimes an overly rosy view of history is presented. For instance, students are given the impression that the conversion of Norway to Christianity was a great thing. There is no mention of the fact that that conversion was often done by force, which is contrary to biblical principles.
- For a book written by and for Protestants, I would have liked to have seen Protestant theology emphasized over Catholic theology:
- For instance, when discussing eschatology, Catholic Futurism and Catholic Preterism are presented as the only two options. There is no mention of traditional Protestant Historicism (though admittedly this position is in the extreme minority these days).
- In addition, the invention of manmade songs for worship is treated as a wonderful development (which follows the Catholic normative principle of worship), whereas from a historic Protestant perspective such songs are considered a violation of the Second Commandment (following the Protestant regulative principle of worship). Although many Protestants follow the normative principle today, it would be nice if they were made aware that historic Protestantism adhered to a vastly different theology than many forms of modern Protestantism.
- There are also several passages that give readers the impression that a person is “holier” if he chooses to live as a monk or experiences phenomena like stigmata. This, again, is contrary to the Protestant teaching of vocation, ie. that all vocations are holy and that church officers are not a cut above the rest of us.
- There seems to be a tendency to portray Catholicism as the default view of Christianity. For instance, when the kids “play church,” they don robes and carry croziers, etc. These are all Catholic trappings that are not used in historic Protestantism, nor are they found in the Bible.
Overall, these books are a useful addition to my homeschool. I blacked out all objectionable language and put stickers over the images of Jesus. Any topic that I thought needed some additional commentary was given a star in the margin as a reminder to me to address as my daughter reads the books.
So far, my daughter is enjoying reading Volume 1. She has had no complaints as of yet. I hope that these books will help her see that history can be exciting and that God is ever-present in human affairs.