Relaxed Learning Observations

Do you wonder how or why we would call ourselves unschoolers to relaxed learners and yet, still use and review so many products?  We also have several staples that we use each week that rarely show up on the blog.

I thought I’d share a couple of instances from this week –

From Math
Nathan finished his Mathmatical Reasoning Book this past week. We have really enjoyed how it opened up math as a conversation. The book wasn’t about practicing 30 random questions to keep a student from forgetting what they had just learned – it was about presenting a puzzle or question and using what they had learned with basic mathematical operations to solve them. Much of the work was performed at a higher level if the student had the opportunity to talk about the problem out loud. Even better if there were real life manipulatives with which to figure. 

He has become solid in thinking through mathematical problems. I’ve seen the results as he helped our landlord replace boards in the boathouse. He had the measurements correct each time, and the adult workers miscalculated and ended up needing to purchase new boards. They officially made him the measurer and cutter. I see it when I cook that he will grab any measuring cup from the cabinet, and I prefer to use the individual exact measurement. This week he needed to cut several lengths of plastic rods, wooden dowels and plastic tubing for a project, and I wanted to put it away and wait til morning, yet, he wanted to finish, and accurately created the project quite quickly.

Most of his friends do not consider this as “school” if he’s not doing hours of math homework and complaining about it during the day. This week, we were given the opportunity to use a Pre-Algebra Teaching Textbooks course. I thumbed through the workbook to see where a lesson topic would come in to challenge him, or teach him a new way to perform the basic operations.  We both settled on Chapter Ten – 68 lessons into the book. Taking the online placement tests we found that he was ready for either Pre-Algebra or Agebra, but not Algebra 2.

We have (he has) done 3 lessons this week, taking a relaxed pace of watching the video in the evening, (because that’s when we started), then working for 20 minutes in the workbook. So far that has been enough time to complete the practice problems. (He sets his timer on the iPod). I go through the questions and circle the ones that are incorrect and we watch the video together that helps us see step by step how to work through the problem.

What I have found is that he is lazy with long division. He guesses, estimates, and then choses. So a question that needs an answer of 3.8 miles (how many miles are in 20,064 feet) becomes Over three miles, a little less than four.  A couple of other questions with changing fractions to decimals came out the same way. I’m wondering, when it is practical to switch to a calculator. Is Eight Years of Long Division enough for a poor kid?

The other area is where his mind thinks differently than the text. A reason I’m not big on the way we judge kids based on fill in the blank tests every 3 years here in Oregon.  Question – write an equation that an unknown number minus 23 equals 51. He writes 51+23 = x .  He explains to me why his answer is right. Again, an unknown number minus 18 equals 27, he writes 27+19=x . Hmmm.  Again one half of an unknown number is 14. He writes 2x 14 = 28, then writes 2 x 14 = x. Technically not wrong, technically is wrong. On a state / public school test – would be wrong.

We both think that by day 5 he will understand the Teaching Textbook Questions enough to give them the answer that they are looking for. But my mind wanders, and I wonder, is that the point of math? To do 30 questions and give the answer in the exact way that the writer wants? My other half of my brain says, if math is this easy to him, have him chug through the 3 or four years of Teaching Textbooks and be good to go for College or whatever he needs. . . . He says he likes it, but it’s not fun anymore. I think we’ll need to throw in 1 or 2 days of Make it Real learning to help him out.

Wow. That was more than I thought I had on my mind for Nate’s math. . . . We do have access to the Algebra TT, after the first of the year, I think I work on swapping these texts. I do not see the need to do them both, and since he is ready for the next one it makes sense. But, through the end of November and December we’ll work through the intro algebra equations and keep it lighter.

Jon – is working well through Jump Math 5, now that I have a break in my required reviews, I’ll have to take some post time for his great experience with this program!


By the Way – if you have any great ideas for math for Nate, feel free to comment or email. He needs to be able to write things down. He would not do well with Life of Fred as his reading is separate from his math skills, we had a great time with Saxon 5/4 – 8/7 but got really bored. He’d rather switch to a non spiral method of learning. Is there a non spiral method math for algebra?

Thanks for listening.


About +Angie Wright

The Transparent Thoughts of an Unschooling Family of Boys - Answering the question - What DO you DO all day?
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15 Responses to Relaxed Learning Observations

  1. Pingback: A Visit With Curriculum Choice Review Authors » The Curriculum Choice

  2. Cindy K. says:

    Which books of the Make it Real Learning have you found the best so far? I have several of them, but keep forgetting to pull them out and use them.

  3. Thank you Angie, I really enjoyed reading how math is going for Nathan. Very interesting observations.

    What strikes me about the Teaching Textbooks is that Nathan is obviously bright with math. Could it just be too easy for him? I know the format is new and all that, but perhaps it isn’t fun because it’s less of a puzzle for him to figure out?

    I didn’t have a chance to use Teaching Textbooks as they weren’t around for me, so I used the Key to.. series ( and it is another possibility for you, since it is a non-spiral Algebra (more pre-algebra in my opinion) program. I really wish I’d had TT myself though, so I’m biased towards it!

    • pebblekeeper says:

      Thanks Joy! Yes, this particular spot is too easy, but I wanted to start the “vocabulary” of it early on. I am looking into the VideoText Math right now, they sent me a DVD and gave me access to their site. I just sat down now to try it. The Keys do not come with a video tutor, and for us, I think that will be key. We get stuck, and we do not currently ahve anyone that is able to tutor us in person. (ok, I get stuck). I do agree, and have seen the keys, that they are like an extension of the Miquon. He did all 6 books of the Miquon before the Saxon. I don’t mean to sound worried, I just would like to sort of start a program, like we did with Miquon, and continue to “do the next page”. 😉

  4. Cindy K. says:

    Also would like to hear more about Mathematical Reasoning Book 2. Is this one that really needs to be done with me as a verbal problem analysis kind of book? Or is it something that they can do on their own? How much do you assign in one day? Is there much for teacher support with it?

    • pebblekeeper says:

      My son did not really need alot of help with Book 2. I told him almost daily, not to get frustrated, that we could talk it out , outloud. Like other conversations in our home, what we’re cooking, what we’re wearing, how we garden, how we fish, we have the same types of conversations while he is in his workbook. He likes the puzzles and he talks alot. I think I did alot more Nodding than helping. There were some that had several ways to solve, and our family members came up with several solutions that were all the same. We have had a constant for math – 20 or 25 minutes per day, less my instruction or video instruction. With Teaching Textbooks or Saxon, 20 minutes was enough to do all of the problems. We didn’t do “pages” we did “minutes”. Some years, they do 2 books a year, some books take them a year and a half. 20 minutes a day, every day we are home, year round. There is a companion teacher’s guide for the Mathmatical Reasoning, however, since it mirrored one of our prior programs, Miquon, I learned before how to look at the page and sort of know what their point is. If you don’t know, the teacher’s book is very exact. We are also looking into Video Txt, I have the DVD ordered and they gave me online access to try the program.

      • Cindy K. says:

        Thanks, Angie! The reason I ask some of these questions is that I work fulltime and need materials that the boys can pretty much use on their own, but still be good and not just busy work. Right now, they are using primarily TT and Khan Academy, but I like to pull out various other materials for our “Friday Math” that changes things up from what they are currently doing, but still keeps their math brains working. They are fraternal twins, but at quite different levels of math ability. One is trying to prep for going to high school next year (he thinks he wants to) and starting in Algebra 1, so I am trying to shore up his pre-algebra foundation to make sure it is rock solid before he gets there. I am not sure that he has a lot of time to do too many supplements as I want to get through all of TT PA (we have the new version 2) using the Khan Academy for some of his lessons and the TT chapter tests to make sure he’s getting all of the concepts so he won’t struggle in the classroom next year. The other is doing TT Math 6 with Khan as supplement. I am going to have him try the JUMP Math Intro Fractions unit, starting on Friday, and see what he thinks of it. It would be a good supplement for him, I think. Especially since he just started his Fractions chapter in TT Math 6 this week! 😉 This son is not going to public high school and needs to continue building a strong foundation so he can eventually move into the higher level math. I would love for him to be able to start a Pre-Algebra program next fall, but we’ll see.

  5. Cindy K. says:

    I’d love to hear more about JUMP Math at Home – how you used it, how much involvement did it require from you? I found the answer key from the web site (for the home workbooks). Did you need anything else to go with it?

    • pebblekeeper says:

      We purchased the JUMP Math 5 from Timberdoodle, it was inexpensive. The hard part was implementing it. I think I personally was trying to make it too hard. I printed out the teacher’s packet and felt overwhelmed. Finally, we just started in the Fractions section, as they recommended, with the fear that we’d have an instant repeat of the tears from last year. No . Such . Thing. Jon wrote Fun and Easy at the bottom of each page. I have not used any of their online materials as of yet, and we are in the third section of the book. Each day starts extremely simple, then works step by step to complex ideas. By the time they are complex, the boys feels very VERY good about his abilities. I really like it! I think, my 10 yr old son, just likes me sitting by him, he doesn’t seem to really need alot of help.

      • Cindy K. says:

        So do you use the teacher’s materials to “teach” a lesson, or do you mostly just let him follow the instructions step-by-step in the book itself? Also, do you have him do more than one topic/day? Like PA6-1 and PA6-2? Or do you just do one “topic”/”lesson”/day even if that is only one page?

      • pebblekeeper says:

        We are on NS5-1 – Place Value, and have finished PA- Counting and the Fractions unit. He seems to do about 2-3 pages a day, we don’t do math every day. Friday we did PA518-19, one topic seems to build up for the next one. We are not doing alot of warm up exercises. Friday I had him work on the Solitaire Chess game from Timberdoodle while I set up some items for our art and music studies. Just something to get his thinking puzzle working mind turned on. We have a few puzzle type games, and I like to set it up at the table, which will draw him like an ant to sugar, and then slip out the math book. This is all for the 10 yr old, we do 20 mins of seatwork with my help each time. The 13 year old has his DVD from Teaching Textbooks, and an additional 25 minutes of seat work per day.

  6. ginag says:

    Videotext math has nonspiral upper level math
    Its what my son would have used if he wasn’t taking math at Pcc this year.

  7. pebblekeeper says:

    Wait. I’ll have to swear again. I did like Times Tales, but it was our month of working with Times Alive from City Creek Press that sunk the multiples into memory. Both boys did it. The graphics and songs seem like a weird version of Schoolhouse Rock. They seem silly. But it WORKS. A year later they will give me a ditty from the song to reason how they knew the answer so quickly.

  8. Angie, you explained exactly what I’m experiencing! The other area is where his mind thinks differently than the text.

    When I try to explain the exact way to write the equation to Emma, she says but that’s not how you do it. She has her own way. If the kid gets the correct answer, why the heck does it matter what method they use? I thought the point of math was to figure out numbers, not be mathematical-grammarly correct.

    I’m still on a mission for Emma’s math. I’m looking at living math, but Jeff is freaking out because I can’t get her past the 4s in multiplication. I want to move on to fractions and division…there is no way unless I can get her to finish multiplication. ARGH!!

    • pebblekeeper says:

      I’ll swear by the program Times Tales. We were in the same problem at 4th grade for Jon. We couldn’t move to Fractions as the multiples were the hangup. We took the time out, like 30 days? to ONLY do Times Tales. He has never referenced the times chart again, Even Nathan did the Times Tales last year, and his mulitple helps chart has gone away too. We used a downloadable version. Wonder if they have apps now?

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