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...  


  1. Celeste, I realize that this is a post from a LONG time ago - lol! As you know also, I've followed you for a long time. Our children are a little older than yours. They go from 15 down to 1yo. My question - my 9yo struggles in all areas of learning. I've had to rethink what I've been using for several subjects with him. We finally have him reading, but it was after I tried a more teacher-intensive curriculum last year. Now I'm rethinking math. I've been looking at RightStart for a few weeks thinking that this might be a good fit for him. He definitely does better with the teacher-intensive programs, and he would do better with a conceptual program that was heavy on manipulatives, I think. You mention in this review that you think it may not work for you in further years when you're schooling other ages and grades, yet I believe you're still using this, aren't you? Can you speak to the amount of time it takes with your other children? I'm just struggling with my lack of time, this child's need for me, whether this would be a good fit (and investment of my time and money), and whether I would end up using it for the other 4 children behind him or if that's unrealistic because of the teacher time needed. Does that make any sense?

    1. Hi Dovey! Yes, I still use RightStart. My two oldest went all the way through the program, and now I have my Y3, Y2, and kinder kids at various points in the program. It is hands-on and teacher-intensive but I feel like it's a really strong program and definitely worth the effort I put in as teacher. Right now, I teach my Y3 and my Y2 for about 15-20 minutes each in the morning. They then spend about 5 minutes working problems at another time of day. I adapt the lessons to accommodate that time frame, meaning that I don't worry about whether we finish a lesson or not -- I just stop at 20 minutes or earlier. They are both in Level C currently (one is about to finish it, one is about a quarter of the way through), so that time frame will adjust a little in Level D and E, which require a little less teacher time, a little more independent work (maybe 10 minutes for the lesson, 10 minutes working on the assignment independently). I share that to say that it does get a bit less teacher-led as the student gets older. I will also say that all of my children are different learners: one is mathy, one is more verbally gifted, one is very sensitive and easily overwhelmed, one is a busy boy who has trouble focusing. And all of them have enjoyed and thrived with this program -- I have been able to adapt where needed to make it fit their needs (pacing, length of lessons, oral v. written work, etc), but have still stuck with the same program for them all. I think it helps that *I* like it, because I think with a program like this, where the parent is the teacher rather than the book, mom's interest goes a long way. But the methods this program teaches are solid and they're taught in age-appropriate and interesting ways. I am definitely not suggesting that this is THE program for you, but we have liked it a lot and I anticipate using it with all of my children.