Easing Into A New Year

It’s been nice to take a relaxed approach instead of diving into a zillion subjects all at once.

We started the year using only materials we already had on hand.  Usually I order our curriculum in July, but this year I waited until everyone else was also ordering, so shipping took a little longer.

All my kids are using Math-U-See (the world’s best math curriculum).  This curriculum was designed a bit differently than we’re actually using it.  As written, the parent will watch one video (approximately five minutes) for tips on how to present a new lesson, then use examples in the teacher’s manual when teaching the lesson.  The lesson is designed to take a full week (or even a few extra days) to complete, so there’s not a lot of video watching required.  Students have a workbook in which they complete five or six pages of exercises per lesson:  page A on the first day, B on the second day, C on the third day, D on the fourth day, E on the fifth day, and F on the sixth day, followed by a test to prove mastery of one lesson before moving on to the next.

In practice, my kids watch the video lesson on their own (because they’d rather jump right in than wait for me), then they do the associated exercises on pages A and B, only asking for help if they get stuck.  I check all their work to make sure they’re doing it right.  Usually they are.  Occasionally I find something that they didn’t understand, in which case we discuss the lesson and I assign page C.  If A&B are done correctly, they get to skip C.

The second day, my kids complete the exercises on pages D & E.  If they get everything right (I do the correcting; they don’t have access to the answer key), the following day they take the test over that lesson.  If they’re still making mistakes, I help them with the lesson again, make up problems to work with the blocks, perhaps go online to generate a practice sheet, and then assign page F.  This usually works well for us.  Instead of taking 6-7 days per lesson, we take three days.

For an example of the kind of things I’ve had to help the kids with:  reciprocals are what you get when you flip a number upside down.  The reciprocal of 2/3 is 3/2; the reciprocal of 5/7 is 7/5.  And, according to one child, the reciprocal of 9 is 6.  Sure enough, if you flip 9 upside down, it’s a 6.

Somehow he missed the “turn whole numbers into a fraction” instruction.  He missed the “when you multiply a number by its reciprocal, the product is always equal to one.”  This was an easy concept to explain.  It’s not always so easly.  One time last year, one of the kids missed everyproblem on two pages.  In discussing it with him, it sounded like he’d been confused for a while but had somehow managed to get the problems right anyway, or only miss one or two, so I hadn’t noticed that he wasn’t understanding the material.  I gave him a one-week vacation from math while I went back over his workbook.  When his mini-vacation was over, we backed up six lessons and watched the video together, then togetherwent over all the examples in the teacher’s manual, then he did the exercises on page C of his workbook. The next day he worked the exercises on page F.  It took a couple weeks, but was well worth going back over all the lessons a second time to make sure he really understood.


I received a notice that my order for this year’s books has finally shipped.  It should arrive on Wednesday, so we’ll finally get to start the rest of our subjects soon.


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