Nothing makes you reflect more on your own educational history than suddenly and unexpectedly homeschooling a gifted child.
And nothing makes you more aware of your personal insecurities.
Me? I’m a reader. I love to write. I’ve always been fascinated by art and history and music. And, while I didn’t think of myself as a science person when I was in public school, I adore the sciences now.
Homeschool math worries me, folks.
My own math education was fraught with gaps and questionable teaching practices. In fact, one year my math teacher went on sick leave in October and we had substitutes for the entire remainder of the school year.
Can you tell I’m bitter about my math education? I’ll be the first to admit it: I am. I always performed well in math, but I never felt confident in the subject. Because of this, math is my main concern when it comes to homeschooling.
I want my children to be confident in math.
I want to raise children who love math.
I want my children to believe that math can be fun.
So how do you accomplish this?
How do you teach your children that math can be fun when your own math history was tarnished?
Well, I’m not going to sit here and act like I have all the answers. I’m right in the trenches with you all and I’m learning as I go.
I can, however, share the way I approach math over here and the reasons behind our approach.
It probably won’t surprise anyone that I’m going to link my approach to reading.
What if We Apply Early Literacy Strategies to Math Development?
As homeschool parents, we all have unique strengths and weaknesses. My strength is reading and right now, at ages 7-, 6-, and 4-years-old, my kids love books and reading. My two oldest children read well above grade level and my youngest guy is teetering on the verge of unlocking that code.
The truth is, I had three readers before I stumbled into homeschooling.
I am a bookworm myself. I am also an educator. I am passionate about literacy.
Because of this, I knew how to raise readers.
When I fell headfirst into homeschooling, I worried about math. How could I raise children who loved math, just as they love books? I decided, in that moment, to rely on my strengths.
What if we approach math development in the same way we approach early literacy?
If you’ve read my most favorite parenting book ever, you already know how to raise readers. Here are a few strategies to promote early literacy:
- Read aloud early and often
- Raise the child in a print-rich environment
- Make early reading experiences pleasurable
- Follow the child’s interests
- Be a reading role model
What if we take those same principles and apply them to mathematics:
- Do math early and often
- Raise the child in a math-rich environment
- Make early math experiences pleasurable
- Follow the child’s interests
- Be a math role model
It makes sense to me that, by creating multiple pleasurable early math experiences, one could raise children who enjoy math.
Could it really be that simple?
Well, the jury is still out, folks. My kids are still young and their mathematical journey has only just begun.
I can tell you that we are all having fun with math right now.
Homeschool Math in the Early Years: 10 Ways to Keep it Fun!
It is my hope that, by creating many early pleasurable experiences around math, my children will naturally grow to understand, apply, problem solve, and analyze the world in a mathematical way. I hope that these early experiences enrich their childhoods and help to build a solid foundation on which to build math skills.
Do you want to add more awesome math resources to your homeschool day?
1. Create a Math-Rich Environment
We hear about print-rich environments all the time. What about a math-rich environment?
Long before my children could read independently, I labeled everything. True story, folks! Family members and friends would tease me about my labels. Toy bins, dresser drawers, objects within our home. When my kids watched television, I made sure there was closed captioning. By doing so, I exposed them to heaps and heaps of words.
Since embarking on this homeschool journey, I’ve tried to expose my children to numbers. Here are just a few ways that we’ve included more numbers in our environment:
Access to math tools
I don’t know about your kids, but mine love any opportunity to use grown-up tools and materials. Why not set them loose with measuring cups, ruler, yardstick, and scale and see what happens? Measurement is a fun way to practice math skills. Are you planting a garden? Include the kids! Planting seeds involves measurement, plus it is fun to chart how fast those plants grow!
Clocks and calendars
Access to fun math activities
One of my favorite homeschool strategies is strewing. By providing access to oodles of fantastic math activity choices, the odds are your children will engage in them!
Board games & card games
Every time you play a game with your child you are working on math skills and boosting those problem-solving abilities. Play Monopoly with your child and let her be the banker. Teach your kids to play chess and they’ll be developing strategic thinking abilities. Dice, dominoes, even the game of War can be educational and fun!
Games are an integral part of our homeschool over here! Just this week, I played Sum Swamp and Countdown! with my younger two. Both of these games reinforce addition skills. My oldest and I played Prime Climb and ThinkFun’s new Math Dice Chase, both of which reinforce multiplication skills. And we all enjoyed taking turns playing our new favorite strategy game: Stratos Spheres!
If you need some inspiration, check out these posts:
Head out in the backyard and go on a nature hunt and then count, sort, and group your treasures. Are you headed to the beach? See who can collect the most seashells and then do the same.
Use your imagination and create a play store or a pretend restaurant!
My children love to set up our playroom like a store, get out the paper money and plastic coins, grab a few reusable shopping bags and play store. In addition to teaching math skills, you can sneak in some early awareness of money and finances.
I cannot tell you how much use we got out of a Kiwi Crate that focused on creating a pretend restaurant. It was a part of our playroom for many months!
3. Enjoy Fantastic Math-Related Read Alouds
It wouldn’t be a My Little Poppies post if I didn’t include books! Books are the spine of our homeschool. By carefully selecting quality books to read aloud to my children, I can cover any school subject… including math! Bonus? Because I am reading aloud, nonreaders are able to learn about these topics, too! For years now, we have been ending our days with Bedtime Math and Life of Fred. I have to think that this time spent cuddled together each evening, enjoying quality stories that center around mathematical concepts, will serve my children well in the future.
If you are looking for more quality math story books, be sure to check out this post in which I share [some of] our favorites. At some point, I will do a follow-up as we have too many favorites to list in one post!
Are you interested in what this can look like? Be sure to check out this post:
4. Get Outside!
Math is everywhere! Explore nature with your children and see what math you can find together. Discuss the patterns in nature, from pinecones to snail shells!
Letterboxing or Geocaching
Have you heard of letterboxing? It’s an outdoor recreational activity where folks hide weatherproof boxes in public places (ie., parks, hiking trails, etc.) for others to find, based on clues found online. This is a wonderful way to combine nature, fitness, and problem-solving. Geocaching takes letterboxing to the next level by using GPS. There are millions of letterboxes and geocaches hidden around the world and it’s up to you to find them!
Build a fort!
When I was little, I loved building forts and then getting lost in my own imaginary world, hidden away in my cozy nook. Forts are an important part of childhood, but did you know that building forts boosts those math and all-important STEM skills?
Last weekend, my children worked together to build a massive lean-to on the hill behind our home. It was a huge undertaking, and they were wiped out by day’s end. Wiped out but proud. I was proud of them, too! From planning to construction to cooperation, they had worked together to solve a problem and create something amazing.
A photo posted by MyLittlePoppies (@my_little_poppies) on
Play a sport
Have a family soccer game and take turns being the scorekeeper. That’s math, folks! Do you have a kiddo who is obsessed with baseball? Talk about all those stats you see throughout the course of a game: batting average, ERA, RBI, CG… I could go on and on and on. Compare your team’s stats to those of your opponent. You’ll be squeezing in a math lesson as you root, root, root for your home team!
5. Have Meaningful Conversations
Talk about it! So much learning happens in our day-to-day conversations. These conversations can be a great way to incorporate real-world mathematics.
- Oh no! Not enough cookies left for everyone? How can you divide them equally?
- How far is it from your home to your best friend’s house?
- How much money do you need when going grocery shopping.
- Out to eat? What is a tip? What does percentage mean?
Our youngest son is the king of math conversations. Ask him to bring up logs for the wood stove? He’ll tell you he’s going to bring up four logs and then he’ll update you with every log, “Four minus one is three!” Everything is math to that little fella, even chocolate chips!
6. Make Math Relevant
My husband and I have discussed allowances before but we never came to any decisions about best practice. Recently, I read a thought-provoking book on the subject and it convinced us to start a weekly save, spend, give allowance with our children. The change has been remarkable. Before having an allowance, money was rarely a topic of conversation among my three. Nowadays, not only do they have a better understanding of coins and value, but they are budgeting and researching ways to give.
Set the kids loose in the kitchen!
Let’s be honest here, folks: Who doesn’t want more help in the kitchen? I’m a healthy eater but I’ve never enjoyed cooking. There are just too many other things I’d rather be doing… until now. Homeschooling has created space for cooking. Where there once was little time, there is now more space. We now prepare most meals together. We have grown closer and made memories… and cooking involves tons of math!
In recent months, my children have been making our kitchen into a restaurant. They first did this for me, and then for my husband, and now they hold weekly “restaurants” for their grandparents. Just think of all the math involved in the following:
- Meal planning
- Menu creation
- Inviting guests
- Following recipes
There’s nothing like an old-fashioned lemonade stand on a hot summer day. Your child will learn valuable math skills in the process, including pricing, measurement, making change, and determining profit. Take it one step further and have a lemonade stand for a cause. Once your child adds up all those quarters, decide on a cause that is dear to your family and make someone’s day.
- Set pricing
- Follow recipe
- Collect money and make change
- Determine profits and share with others involved
7. Incorporate Technology
When it comes to math, technology is your friend! From AoPS to IMACS to Khan to online courses through Duke, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, and Stanford, online learning opens a world of possibility for gifted homeschoolers. Online learning opportunities can keep gifted kids happy and engaged while giving mom and dad a break. I don’t know about you guys, but math is the first subject I plan on outsourcing when my children get older!
8. Watch Your Words
It seems that folks either love math or they loathe it. Just the word math is enough to strike fear into the hearts of many. Believe me, I understand!
Regardless of how bad your math education was, you must be aware that children are sponges. They learn by watching you! It is so important to create early, positive memories around mathematics. I think this is especially true when it comes to our daughters.
[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@caitfitz6″ hidden_hashtags=”#ihsnet” display_mode=”box”]Let’s raise a generation of girls who are more confident in math than we ever were![/tweetthis]
Trust me, you don’t have to remember everything!
All you need is to be willing to learn alongside your children.
When you start to get nervous, remind yourself that you were your child’s first teacher. Learning doesn’t end because you graduated, my friend. There’s nothing stopping you from re-learning something you have long forgotten. It doesn’t stop you from learning something you missed due to educational gaps.
You can learn together.
10. Don’t forget about the arts!
We are living in a fascinating age of technology, creativity, and ingenuity. There is a push to incorporate art into the STEM model, resulting in STEAM: science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics. One of my favorite Einstein quotes is this one:
I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.
We need those artists and musicians! Creative individuals think outside of that proverbial box.
There has been a lot of talk over the years about the link between music and mathematics. Musical training can help with sequencing, pattern recognition, memory, and attention skills. And do you want to know the best part? Music is fun– your kids won’t even know that they are fine-tuning those math skills!
Art is fun. It opens the mind and calms the soul. I try to incorporate art into our daily routine here. I believe that the ability to focus on art and music is a huge homeschool perk! I am certain that my children would have less time for these pursuits in a public school setting.
By creating many positive early experiences of math, you build a foundation for later.
Just as I grew three readers, I am hoping to grow three math lovers. So far, they love math. My hope is that they will always see the value and fun in mathematics.
Would you like to add more joy to your homeschool day?
Are you looking for more ways to make math fun?
I’m constantly on a quest to find fun educational materials and activities. Follow me on Pinterest to keep up with the latest and check out these related posts:
Now, it’s your turn. Tell me, how do you make math fun?
Now that I’ve shared my approach to homeschool math in the early years, I’d love to hear what you do! Share here. I love hearing from you!
This post has been part of the Hoagies’ March 2016 Blog Hop: March Mathness. Please click the image below to keep on hoppin’!
Cait co-hosts The Homeschool Sisters Podcast and is co-founder of Raising Poppies, a community for parents of gifted and twice-exceptional children. Cait is also founder of the Family Book Club at My Little Poppies, a fantastic community of book-loving parents and the Gameschool Community at My Little Poppies, a vibrant community of gameschoolers.
Cait is a contributing writer for Simple Homeschool. Her work has also appeared on The Huffington Post, The Mighty, Scary Mommy, GeekMom, and many others. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram
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