Unschooling and Learning Maths
by Beverley Paine
Learning maths without picking up a maths books is a challenge we've never completely mastered. We had long bouts of no maths books at all, and the children seemed to learn and master the skills without much overt help. That encouraged me. When April was twelve I purchased 7Plus and 8Plus, two beaut maths books that set out how to do the problems and offered puzzle, test and answer pages. All three of the children have used these books to test their maths abilities and to expose them to the written expression and workings of maths. This revision and 'topping up' of maths skills provided comfort for me as a learning naturally mum and served a useful educational purpose for them.
Most of the children's maths learning derives from daily life activities. We've built two homes around their heads over the last twenty-one years. We're continually building. Try divorcing using maths from building! It's impossible. Our eldest's toddler years were spent playing with tape measures, levels, squares, and angles. Her brothers weren't spared either. Add a fantastic LEGO collection, a wonderful tool for installing and cementing maths and physics concepts into young minds, and you can see why my children are competent mathematicians.
Money is an excellent tool for teaching the four functions - addition, subtraction, multiplication and subtraction. As the years advanced the children became competent at working out percentage and fraction discounts and interest as well as making sure they got the right change. As a 15 year old checkout assistant our daughter was stunned by how many children have no idea what to tender or how much change to expect.
As to advanced maths for tertiary education I've always encouraged the children to understand that, with the basics covered, they can learn anything they want or need to at any time in their lives.
Our daughter discovered algebra was used in spreadsheet calculations and overcame a learning block as a result, finally seeing a use for something she'd met in maths books and hadn't understood. The boys inadvertently began using equations when designing a Lego game based on a Dungeons and Dragons style computer game. Their father has used trigonometry in their presence to calculate amounts used in a landscaping problem. Seeing the usefulness of these maths tools demystified them for the children.
Good study habits make learning from maths texts easier, and I've found that a lack of book learning in the early years doesn't impede the development of these skills. Access to a sympathetic and competent mentor is essential in all learning situations, and having someone to model oneself on helps too. We all feel confident that should the need arise we can all tackle any kind of maths in order to pursue a career or interest. For now coping with everyday maths seems sufficient and is still learned 'on the job'.
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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active support of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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