When I started home educating the boys, I began with a traditional school-at-home approach. I knew that we all needed routine and structure to the day. I also value academic learning and wanted to be sure that the boys were making progress.
As the months have passed, however, I have begun to see how much the boys can learn from self-directed projects. We still have routine, but the lessons involve a lot more space for exploring and experimenting, and less of me talking!
With their research projects, the boys have been learning a lot about science without my doing any teaching at all. It’s very exciting! I wanted to try something similar for Maths.
Previously I have taught the boys Maths using National Curriculum linked workbooks, designing extra exercises when they were having trouble. I mixed in a few games – like Pontoon, shape bingo, and clapping games – but the style of me teaching and the boys (ideally) learning didn’t change.
Using The Adventures of Penrose the Mathematical Cat is a big change for us. I read the boys a story about a cat. Then we have a couple of puzzles to solve. We solve the puzzles together, which the boys enjoy. Then, if they want, the boys explore the topics a bit more.
My husband was a little unsure about this approach to maths. Both boys make mistakes in basic arithmetic, and husband thinks that we ought to stick to practising this. He worries that they both make random guesses when faced with any problem involving numbers (truthfully, this makes me a bit nervous too).
The Penrose book looks at more than just arithmetic. It covers the Fibonacci sequence, golden rectangles, magic squares and other things that delight people who love numbers. If the boys are ever going to catch the love of maths, this seems like the book to do it! My hope is that the boys will take an interest in numbers and begin to ‘get’ them. Then, they’ll be willing to do sums and see how random guesses don’t make sense. They can do the sums when they want to, I think what they need right now is to find the joy of numbers.
Besides, it will take a couple of months to work through the book, and we can get back to workbooks then if it looks like a better option.
So far, it’s going well! Eldest was fascinated with mathematical stars and fractals.
One big plus has been that, because these are maths conversations rather than workbooks, the boys have been excited about telling their dad, their Nana, their grandad, their uncles (basically anyone who cares enough to provide an audience) about what they’re learning.
We’ve had chats over dinner and scribbled on pub napkins to demonstrate an idea. It’s early days, but, there is a slim chance that the boys are starting to see why numbers are so much fun!
Wish us luck!