Charlotte Mason · Homeschooling

Want to Try a Different Approach for Summer Math?

So summer is almost here, and it’s time to kick back, relax, and enjoy life.  And if you’re like me, you’re hoping for a chance to get to all those fun projects and activities you never found time for during the school year.  For us, those activities will hopefully include crafts, swimming, nature hikes and nature journals, art, and of course, reading lots of good books just for the fun of it.

And then there’s math…..!

Yes, I’m hoping to keep the kids sharp in their math skills over the summer, so they aren’t too rusty when we start school full-time again in the fall.  Finding and keeping a math curriculum that suits me and works well for the kids has been a moving target ever since we began homeschooling four years ago.  I’m embarrassed to admit how many times I’ve switched math programs, BUT….this past school year we used one curriculum the whole year, and I’m not planning to switch any time soon, because I love it!


You may have heard about it.  Its name gives you a clue as to the unconventional nature of it –“Life of Fred Mathematics.”  Here’s a description of it taken from the Life of Fred web-site itself:

“No other textbooks are like these.  Each text is written in the style of a novel with a humorous story line. Each section tells part of the life of Fred Gauss and how, in the course of his life, he encounters the need for the math and then learns the methods. Tons of solved examples. Each hardcover textbook contains ALL of the material – more than most instructors cover in traditional classroom settings.  Includes tons of proofs.

Written by Dr. Stanley Schmidt with the intent to make math come alive with lots of humour, clear explanations, and silly illustrations that stick in the mind.  The student will learn to think mathematically.

Completion of this series prepares student for third year college math.”

The kids enjoy this math curriculum, especially the funny stories — which we get to hear at the dinner table!  But there is real work and real problem-solving included along with the funny stories.  The work is even challenging enough to produce frustration in the kids at times, just like any other math curriculum —  even the ones that claim to be a “no more tears” math curriculum. (I don’t believe such a curriculum exists, after trying several myself. 😉 )  What I love about this curriculum, though, is the way it makes a math concept stick in your mind through the use of a story, a technique which I believe fits very well with the rest of our literature-based Charlotte Mason curriculum.

The sub-title on these math books is “Math — as serious as it needs to be.”  I know one thing for sure, if they’re going to have to do math over the summer, my kids would rather learn math through stories than through a sheet of practice problems any day, hands down!

If you’re interested, check out the link above for more information and to see sample lessons.  And if you have any questions, feel free to ask me.

(I really will get to all the fun stuff in my next post!)



16 thoughts on “Want to Try a Different Approach for Summer Math?

  1. How will you implement using these? I bought these for my kids for the summer, too, but haven’t figured out how to balance a school break with some learning. We use Saxon Math during the year so these look like fun complementary sources.

    1. I’m planning on having the kids do a lesson twice, maybe three times a week. They can finish a lesson in 15 minutes or so, so that should be pretty light, while still ensuring that they maintain their math skills at least a little bit. Sometimes it takes my 7th grader 30-45 minutes when she does one of the “bridges,” which are essentially tests. (Don’t know how familiar you are with them, or what levels you are working with — only the upper levels have bridges.) I actually use only these books during the regular school year as well. I have taken a break and used a more standard curriculum for a couple of weeks at a time when there was a particular skill that needed more practice — fractions for my 5th grader, for instance, but other than that I don’t supplement with an additional math program. They are fun, but they also really push the kids to think mathematically, to grasp the concept. That’s what I really value in a math curriculum.

      Hope that helps. Let me know if you have more questions. 🙂 Happy summer! –Rachel

      1. Thank you! I hadn’t really looked through them yet as I am wrapping up their last week of SM. I was just going to sneak them into the car for our summer trip. That is just what I was hoping it would be. 15 min or so shouldn’t ruin summer! 😊

  2. My homeschooling friend highly recommends these. She said its the best way to show the kids how you need math in everyday situations.

  3. Reblogged this on Maverick Mom and commented:
    My oldest son used this curriculum for Algebra. Life of Fred is a great math curriculum for anyone who learns best through reading and visual imagery, as opposed to just rote formula memorization. The memory and formula parts are there, but there are great stories and witty comments that help to make it stick! My son enjoyed this approach and it helped him move forward.

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