Personally, I think this (now both boys read fluently and independently) is the most important lesson. So it’s the lesson I devote the most time to, and the one that ends up being the least relaxed!
One of the strangest things I have noticed about teaching the boys maths is that the work must be just right. If it too hard, they are quickly discouraged, which is not at all surprising. But, if it is too easy, they become silly and refuse to engage. Sometimes, if I’m struggling to show them something , it helps to make a sudden jump to much more complicated work. That can inspire them anew. One example of this would be basic arithmetic. They needed to work on getting all their operations the right way round (not adding when the problem called for subtraction, for example). I tried making maths more real using sweets, but they weren’t interested. Then I introduced the Four 4’s puzzle. The idea is that you can make every number from 1 to 100 inclusive using exactly four 4’s and any operation you like. The boys loved it and got excited about arithmetic again! Really, the puzzle is rather hard for them, and they do need help, but they engaged really well and their arithmetic skills improved.
We have ‘Fraction Action snap cards’ which have been very handy. In conjunction with fraction equivalency cubes, they have helped the boys get to grips with fractions, decimals and percentages.
Sometimes I take maths outside and draw all over the patio with chalk. This way we can revise triangles, shapes and fractions.
I would like the boys to learn their times tables. The boys are not at all sure. They prefer the delay method.
Me: So, Otter-kit, do you know what eight times seven is?
Me: Eight times seven.
Son: Eight times seven . . . Seven times eight . . . Eight times seven iiiiiiiiis . . .
Me: I know what you’re doing here. You’re working it out.
Son: It’s fifty six. See, I know it!
Bah! That is not knowing your tables, that is counting in your head, whilst repeating a question.
Sometimes, I get the boys to play a times table memory game that I made. Somewhat ambitiously, I made prime number cards as well, but we’re nowhere near ready to introduce those yet.
Sometimes we play Beep-Crash (you sit in a circle and begin to count, but every time you reach a number in the five times table you say ‘beep’ instead of saying the number, and every time you reach a number in the four times table you clap instead of saying the number.). The boys have a sixth sense for educational games and resist playing this one too often.
Of course, the boys love playing maths games on the computer. I’m not convinced that these games improve the boys’ skills, but they do convince the children that maths is fun!
There are many days when I think I may as well admit defeat and accept the boys will never learn their tables. But, then I remember that a year ago I thought the same thing about telling the time, and they can pretty much do that now. I do realise that this is almost certainly proof that the boys can pick up maths without me pushing it so hard. I do believe that a good home-educator knows when to trust their children to learn on their own initiative. But, I also believe that I am not that home-educator!