Unschooling happens like this: “I need to do these math drills every day”

Math Medley

Cinder, 12, did his first formal math last year. We zipped through most of what would be grade two-to-four curriculum in two time blocks of 17 and then 21 days, doing anywhere from 30 to 2 hours of math a day—but only two or three times a week.

Yes, it takes that little when a person is ready and motivated.

I was, of course, thrilled, and wanted to keep on doing math until we got to “grade level.” (He was nominally in grade six that year.) It was clear that we’d get there in two more months, max. But he was done—and considering how quickly we zoomed through three years of curriculum when he was into it, I had a pretty good predictor that when he wanted to dive into math again, we’d get wherever it was that he needed to go pretty quickly.

So. Math on the table again. We’ve had a long break, but we decide not to review and just proceed, into multiple digit-by-multiple digit multiplication.

I explain it. He gets it, does it.

We had decided we’d do math two or three times a week to maintain momentum and routine, but it’s September, and we’re just finding routine. And, there are so many amazing things happening in our city right now, and we want to take advantage of the beautiful September days, and then there’s a freak snowstorm and we have to go save trees, and then we have family out of town…

Days-it’s been a week! elapse between the math sessions. And each time we sit down, Cinder looks, frowns. “I remember this was easy, but I can’t remember how I was supposed to do it!”

I explain. He gets it. Does it.

We take too long a break again…

And he says, “OK, new plan. I need to do a page or two of this every day so I don’t need to re-remember how to do it every time.”

And… yeah.

Unschooling happens like this.

Children learn how to learn.


Now, I’m a little worried about telling you this story, because… you will run out and get a math curriculum for your six-year-old… and he won’t WANT to do it… and you’ll think, “Well, so much for unschooling.”

Please note: Cinder is 12. No pen-and-paper-looks-like-school math for him until he was 11.5.

What did it look like before?

Like Lego, mostly.

Playing with measuring tapes and metre sticks. Skip counting. Building complicated structures out of Kapla that needed to balance. Filling and re-filling containers with gravel.

Playing video games.

Reading books like How do Octopi Eat Pizza Pie http://www.amazon.ca/How-Octopi-Eat-Pizza-Pie/dp/0809499509

Did I mention… playing?



FIRST TIME HERE? Welcome. Browse. I think the most valuable resource I have on here is seven years worth of Cinder and Flora’s learning plans and progress reports. If you want to see what unschooling looks like when you have to document it, check them out: Learning Plans and Progress Reports.

I don’t post new content on any particular schedule here—more as something worth sharing occurs—and I don’t interact with readers here. That, I do on my “real” blog, Nothing By The Book. Come visit.

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