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leaving public school in the elementary grades through high school
graduation and into college.

Whether you have a specific question, want some general advice, or just need
a dose of encouragement, Guilt-Free Homeschooling is the place to be! GFHS
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assuring them that homeschooling can be manageable, successful, guilt-free,
and glorifying to God.

Homeschooling... Guilt-Free

Monday, October 18, 2004

A Valuable Jump-Start in Math

My son continually reiterated his aversion to math: he protested over and over that he hated doing math. I saw through his arguments, though, because he had never met a math problem that was too difficult for him to understand. What he hated, in reality, was the time it took for him to do his math. To him that was valuable time that could have been spent on much more enjoyable endeavors. We tried holding math until last each day, thinking that would help him get through it more quickly. ("Ten more problems and you can go play.") We tried skipping every other problem. We tried everything we could think of. Finally, the years rolled (crawled?) by.

We did not attempt to complete each Saxon book in just one year. I am not sure that he ever completed a Saxon book in the prescribed time, but since we had started his math career with Miquon Math, he had a jump-start on Saxon. I had found Miquon through a glowing review in Mary Pride's Big Book of Home Learning. Miquon consists of 6 workbooks, done 2 per year for grades 1-3. Holding my son down to only two pages per day at that time, he still finished 3 workbooks per year, completing 3rd grade math by the end of his 2nd grade year. (Those books he loved doing and often begged for more.) Mary Pride had lauded Miquon for giving her children the foundation required for stepping directly from Miquon's final 3rd grade book into Saxon's 6/5 (6th grade) book. She was right. My son also made that move with no academic difficulty -- just his personal distaste for sitting still and working problems, but this was a 9-year-old boy.

Since he began Saxon so far ahead of schedule, I allowed him to do half a lesson each day, spreading the book out over 2 years. Following that routine, I theorized that, by the time he got to high school, he would be right on track, and by then he should be well able to handle the full lesson each day. However, since he still grasped every concept remarkable quickly, we skipped over some of the repetition in the problem sets (he did often one problem instead of all 3 when they were all of the same type).

Let's skip ahead now in this story to the point when we arrived at Saxon Advanced Mathematics -- the equivalent of pre-calculus and higher math than I had personally taken. The best way for me to teach it to him was to learn it myself first, so I studied each lesson and did the entire problem set myself each day. I have always loved math anyway, so this was something I did not dread. Math class then became a race for my son, trying to see if he could get it done before Mom did. (Larger families certainly have a distinct advantage of built-in competition!) We were proceeding on the author's recommended two-year plan through that book, right on schedule as summer approached. My daughter then found she needed pre-calculus as a prerequisite for one of her fall college classes and challenged her brother to take it with her in the community college's upcoming summer term. He jumped at the chance to complete all of next year's math in only one month and enrolled immediately.

Warning! The super-fast pace of college summer school is not for everyone! With barely enough extra time to eat, sleep, and shower, the two of them spent nearly every waking moment doing the homework assignments, in addition to the 5 hours of class time each day, 4 days a week. Four long weeks later, they were finished and so proud of themselves for persevering through it! My son had the added accomplishment of tutoring several other students through the tough parts, and he was only 15 years old at the time! His outlook on math was changed significantly: he was forced by the pace of that class to speed himself up, he enjoyed the competition with other students, and he finally saw himself as truly gifted in understanding math, something he had overlooked previously because he was so distracted by the time factor. He realized his "gift" when he found he could recite answers to problems done in his head (the Miquon way) faster than other students could punch the numbers into their calculators.

As you can tell, I have the highest praise for Miquon Math. I truly feel it gave my son a foundation of "thinking" math, not just "doing" math. My daughter did not have the benefit of that foundation, and although I did teach her some of the Miquon thinking processes, she still does not have the ability to see through a problem the way my son does. Please understand -- my daughter has great mathematical understanding and has tutored college-level statistics, but my son has kept the definite headstart he received from Miquon. (End of sales pitch -- too bad I'm not getting commissions from Miquon!)