Friday, August 10, 2012

Our CM Kindergarten: Math

I was not planning to tackle math in any formal way in kindergarten.  I have several great resources that emphasize math through games and activities, and I thought I would pull from those books as desired to do some "math play" with the kids: Family MathFamily Math for Young ChildrenEenie Meenie Miney Math!, and Games for Math. I paged through the books, noting the activities I thought would be particularly fun, and we started September with a couple of those activities a week.

And then we joined a homeschool charter school, which provides a stipend for learning materials each semester.  I decided to go ahead and order RightStart Math, which had looked like a great low-key option for early math but had been cost-prohibitive for us.  We also had just added a new baby to the family, so I thought it would also be nice to have everything pre-prepared and laid out for me in a systematic way.  I purchased Level B (technically, the first grade book) at the advice of some homeschooling friends, planning to take it very slowly with a 2-3 short lessons a week and thereby stretching Level B over two years, finishing up "on time" at the end of their first-grade year.  As soon as we began, though, I had a feeling that was not going to happen! The children loved it immediately, and started asking if we could "do math" every afternoon.  The program felt very gentle in its workload (we often split the lesson up over two days if it seemed long or complicated) and thorough in its conceptual approach.  Since the program is teacher-intensive and mostly oral, we had our math time during the little ones' naptime--I find that the lesson goes more smoothly when I have both hands free and very little background noise to compete with. ;)  We school year-round, so we ended up finishing the book a few weeks ago, and moved right along to Level C.

I have to admit that I'm not exactly sure what Miss Mason would think of RightStart as a program.  Certainly, she preferred the use of manipulatives at the beginning, then a weaning from those manipulatives once the concepts have been learned and the problems can be done in the mind--this is what RightStart advocates also.  She also believed that concepts are far more important than algorithms, and RightStart lays a strong conceptual foundation.  And as I mentioned, much of the first year is done orally, with games used instead of worksheets for "drill"; this is CM-friendly as well.  I have read it described as a spiral program working as a mastery program--I'm not sure whether that's accurate.  But I feel like my children have a firm grasp on early mathematical concepts at this point, and that they got to this level with very little fuss and quite a bit of fun. :)  The only downside of the program I have found so far has been that, as I mentioned, it is teacher-intensive compared to other options.  The children do not go through the book themselves; I teach scripted lessons straight out of the teacher's manual and have to be present and attentive for the whole lesson.  I do often leave them to play the card games or complete the worksheets, but other than that, it requires the mother's assistance.  That might be an issue for me later on, when I'm homeschooling multiple grades and need to free up time for other subjects.  But at this point, I view it as a small price to pay for the mathematical understanding and interest that I see in my children so far.  

We were still able to incorporate lots of real-life math and math play into our school days:  reading recipes, measuring for furniture, checking the temperature outdoors, math bingo, learning to play mahjong...even sharing their toys is an exercise in math. ;)

So that's our Charlotte Mason kindergarten!  Moving on to other topics next time...  

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