I have been sitting on this post for a long time. It is no small thing to publicly announce that we left two other math companies and settled on one we felt was a better fit. Math is a touchy subject. It can be VERY difficult to find something that fits for our kids and that they don’t get left behind in or confused. There are SO many options out there that I know it feels like trudging through a muddy maze, not really certain how to find our way out into the “promised land” of a quality program that we are happy with. But after years of trial and error, I have finally taken the leap into the solidarity of committing to one curriculum–for ALL my kids!
In the past I used a blend of curriculums, and to be completely transparent, I chose based on what was easier for ME not what was best for my kids. Sure, I was happy sipping my coffee feeling like my list was being magically checked off, but my kids were suffering. And the worst part is, I didn’t even know it! This is my story through three different math curriculums. I’m going to share the good the bad and the ugly and explain why we made the decision we did. I hope that my journey can help you find the answers you seek for your own family, and offer a little bit of clarity into these three very different curriculums.
My experience with Math U See
I began using Math U See from day 1. We started Kindergarten with some custom wooden boxes (no longer made by the way) and all our books and multiple manipulative sets. I was IN, 100%. I loved the videos, I loved that it was hands on and I loved that it was a mastery approach. Things went really well for the first few years until I began to notice some concerns. My kids weren’t interested in math, they found it very repetitive and boring. I began crossing out pages and not making them do the entire lesson each week but their interest was waning no matter what I did. Where some of my kids were able to keep up, others began to fall behind. The farther they fell behind, the more frustrated they became. The program becomes incredibly intense, focusing on full mastery on a topic before moving on to anything else.
Math became a fight. I didn’t feel up to the battle.
My kinesthetic daughter, the one who should have (in theory) done the best with this program couldn’t keep up. I watched her burst into tears day after day. I tried working with her, but she was completely overwhelmed by the intensity of the approach and I felt like she was hating math. I was concerned that my children seemed to be unbalanced, ahead in one particular concept and way behind in the others. The curriculum was expensive, about $153 for the full set, which was really adding up as new littles hit curriculum. One day I just packed them all up and took the leap into new territory.
My experience with Teaching Textbooks
The next year I spent using a blend of Math Lessons for a Living Education for my son who was in grade 1 and Teaching Textbooks for my older two. Teaching Textbooks doesn’t start until grade 3 so I was kind of forced into this blend of programs and it was interesting to see the two of them side by side. This program was one that I was relatively unfamiliar with and the initial introduction was full of infatuation on my behalf. I mean… here was a program that I had to do NOTHING with! I sipped tea and did school with my littles and enjoyed checking off my list. Math was getting done ya’ll! and all I had to do was say, “Go do your math.” It was a beautiful thing my friends. But I was so disengaged from the day-to-day and quite frankly, disinterested in what my kids thought of it that I began to miss the signs.
This summer we pulled out our discs again and loaded them up to finish off the last few lessons and get ready for our new ones and both my kids were in tears. I began to look back over their lessons and saw that they hadn’t really been grasping the new concepts they were being taught. They could do it in the short term right after the lesson was done, but they didn’t know why they were doing it or what it meant. I watched them do things with a confused look on their face and when I asked them to explain what they were doing they couldn’t, “Because that’s what I’m supposed to do,” they’d answer with a shrug. Not only were they not ready to move on to another year, but I felt like we needed to redo the year we had done! I was honestly completely thrown for a loop you guys! Now what?!?!?!
My decision to switch all the kids to Math Lessons for a Living Education
The only thing that I could think of was that all of them had tried a few weeks of Math Lessons for a Living Education for a review last fall and enjoyed it. My youngest son was still going strong with his math and loving every minute of it. He also had not forgotten any of the concepts he learned. I had done every single lesson with him, we had read stories and gone adventuring and he had understood not only the why behind the concept, but how it applied to him personally. He had narrated his understanding of the lessons as we went, I KNEW he had progressed, I had watched it happen! Not being one to waste time, energy, or tears, I felt that it was time to focus in on what my kids needed and give this program another try.
We started about 2 weeks ago and the shift in our home has been palpable. My son comes down the stairs saying he can’t wait to do his math. Somehow I had this idea that I needed to go with Teaching Textbooks because I needed something they could do independently. But once we found something that they understood, both my oldest children are doing it completely independent from me. The stories explain the concepts and are so well done that they haven’t asked for my help ONCE other than to tell me what they are learning or ask me to get some poster board or index cards for them to use. I still had the freedom I had with TT, but without the teary overwhelmed children. Could it really be this easy?
Comparing what each curriculum has to offer
Why Did we choose Math Lessons for a Living Education?
Other than the fact that it is working better for us in a practical sense, I feel it is the best choice for our family based on the options we have tried. It is hands-on, it is affordable, I am more involved which means I can be more on top of where the kids are at and where we need to slow down. They are grasping and remembering the concepts better, I LOVE the Charlotte Mason approach! Bringing in copywork and narration and dictation and living books to help make math come to life for them! I love that there are no tests and that the lessons are short and not overwhelming for the kids. I personally am a big fan of the fact that it is not common core.
I am not here to tell you that this is the only math curriculum you should buy nor am I here to badmouth or tear down other math curriculum companies. Once my kids are past grade 6 we will be back to the drawing board and every family needs to come to a decision of what works best for them. Also, every stage is different and if there is anything I am learning along this homeschool journey it is to keep your options open, you never know what you’ll use a year or two down the road! Instead I wanted to share my experience with the three programs with my kids with 3 very different learning styles and how they worked for them! In the end, this is what we chose for our family, this is what I feel offers more value to my kids and aligns best with my vision to make learning a way of life and something that is FUN, not a chore. I love the Charlotte Mason values, and I love the time snuggling on the couch reading the stories or working on a project together! If you have any questions about it, PLEASE post them in the comments below, I’ll be following this thread closely and do a live event sometime in the next month so stay tuned!
Looking for more info or where to buy?
You can read my full review on how the program works HERE. You can also get a discount on ANY order at Masterbooks with coupon code REBECCASFRIEND at the checkout. The books are available in PDF form for those of us in Canada, they are also available in print form with free shipping over $75 (in the US). You can take a placement test, view samples, and shop the store HERE.