Monday, January 19, 2009


Our next core subject is Mathematics. I chose RightStart Math after a long deliberation. There are so many math programs available, and I had no desire to jump around from program to program trying to find the best fit.

The Well-Trained Mind recommends Saxon Math. I chose not to use this program because my niece (very similar in personality to Levi) struggled with Saxon (and math in general). I looked at Horizons Math which would have suited my learning style as a child and teaching style as an adult, but decided against a workbook-style program.

In the end, I chose RightStart Math for its ability to introduce math concepts in a variety of ways (visual, tactile, auditory) with little writing in the beginning stages. (I started Levi with RightStart A when he was four and not yet writing.) In general, I liked the RightStart approach and learning goals, feeling that it would best give Levi (and his brothers) a strong start in math.

The emphasis on groupings of five, both with tally sticks and beads on the abacus is brilliant. The math games make learning fun. The variety of manipulatives is terrific. Lessons are scripted (they tell you exactly what to do and say). Each lesson lists objectives, materials needed, warm-up, and activities. RightStart is teacher-intensive, which is fine with me as Levi does not do math well independently.

Planning is straight-forward. You decided how quickly you want to move through the program, plan a certain number of weekly lessons accordingly, schedule time to do math (plan extra time for catch-up, math games, and review), and spend time at the beginning of each week to look over the lessons and set aside materials that you will need.

Having a copier available is necessary for reproducing worksheets and other patterns, etc. from the spiral-bound lesson book.

Here is where I admit that math is the toughest subject for me to maintain consistency in. We are only half way through Level B (first grade), which technically is right on target for Levi's age, but I had hoped to finish the book by this time.

Math takes complete focus for both Levi and myself, more than any other subject. It also requires that we have the materials out and ready. Both Leif and Luke are incredibly distracting, and Luke begs to do math with us.

Lately, I've been working on making math our priority. My mom has been watching Leif a couple afternoons each week, so that is an incredible help. I also gathered all our supplies into a 'mobile math' bin, so that it is easy to grab and take to the table.

Luke usually sits on my lap and listens in, as well as being my partner in any math games. It is his favorite subject. I desperately need to get out Level A and start at the beginning with him (I want him to have the correct foundation, and he will pick it up quickly), but I will wait until Levi and I have found our math groove.
(Any math updates will be posted with the Math label.)


Mirjam said...

I know exactly what you're talking about! Same situation here with the two youngest wanting my attention and Adam being easily distracted and not being able to work independently (and working só slowly ;o))

Thank you for posting ;o)

Mirjam ~ NL
Adam ('01), Boaz ('04) and Levi ('07)

Christi said...

Thanks so much for sharing why you chose RightStart! I haven't really started "formal" math with Ryan for the same reasons you mentioned - I have not done a lot of research & didn't want to jump around.

I've found, though, that Ryan has a strong mathematical mind (& that I make things too hard). My husband had R doing 3 digit (simple) addition and subtraction, and explained it with an ease that I just don't have (and no book!). Maybe I'll let him be in charge of math!

Precision Quality Laser said...

Your boys will thank you that you didn't start them out on Saxon math! I went from public school to private school and I went from being ahead by a grade in math to completely bewildered because I didn't understand the Saxon math. The way the book taught did not jive with my learning style and from then on I learned to despise math. And for a daughter whose mother took Trig "just for fun" it was a crying shame!

I am going to check out RightStart because my boys are very tactile....thanks for the tip!

Jen - Balancing Beauty and Bedlam said...

Oh, I am behind with math for my younger guys. I, too, had hoped to be much further threw the book. I have used Saxon for all five of mine. It's worked for them, but definitely know it's not a good fit for them all. For my older ones, I LOVE the Dive CD they have. It has saved me. :)

ohio12 said...

I have been very torn with math and chose Abeka for K/First. I thought my daughter would enjoy Right Start or MUS, but knew that it would take so much more time and planning and money than Abeka. I thought...isn't it better to be done in 10 minutes and then let her go play. But I am not sure I am fostering a deep understanding or a love of math. She doesn't hate it or anything, but she doesn't really think it is fun either. I feel like I could still switch because I am so early in the game. Thanks for the post, Laura

Laura said...

I love your work, Heidi! Thank you so so much for being a continual inspiration. I've just spent over an hour (I think!) browsing your site again and jotting down notes about this and that. You are so rich.

jodi said...

so nice to be back online and catching up with you, heidi--your corner of the world (dreary though you may think it is this time of year) never ceases to bring sunshine to my corner of the world (cold and snowy as it is now!).

please do a photo post on your settings--especially for your faces pictures. the color/lighting is great in ALL of them. i got a new lens for christmas--oh, can't think of it right now, but it's for portraits. just haven't had time to play around with it since moving.

and i made my blog public now--my kids say i need to find a picture of myself to put on it. will put that on the to-do list-


Heidi said...

Thanks for all the kind words, ladies. Your comments really mean a lot to me!

Jodi~ I've been wondering if you were all settled yet. I need to send you an email and catch up! I tried to access your blog, but it said your profile was private. Maybe I'll try again tomorrow.

Renee said...

I checked out the Right Start website. Very, very interesting! We use Saxon for our oldest and Horizons for our yougest. So far we've been happy...but could we be doing better???
Guess what? I was in the used book store today and saw the map flip chart that you spoke about in a previous post! I would have probably walked right past it had I not read about it here. So I snagged it (with part of our grocery money, no less)! But it was only $8.95, so who can blame me? Can not wait to use it!!! When I brought it home the boys were full of oooos and ahhhs and had to pour over every page!

carole said...

This is one of our curriculum choices that I am *very* happy with. VERY. Thanks to you!

We took the little online test to determine which level was appropriate for Ian (when starting Kindergarten). We ordered level B. We took it slowly during the first year of K, and then took a huge chunk of time off because our math balance was broken and we were waiting for our new one to come in the mail (yes, it sounds like "the dog ate our homework" but there really were some communication and shipping errors).

Anyhow, now that I've done level B slowly over 2 years I am wondering what to do with Will. Have you considered that for Luke? I wonder if I should get level A and if we should be more consistent? Or should I just go for it again with level B in Kindergarten? Hmmm...

Also, I remembered another homeschool/mothering related question (for your answer any and all questions request): Do you have a strategy/approach to "playing" with your boys? I find that after getting through a morning full of "school," I have no time (or energy!) left to actually play with the boys. :( Besides the many demands of laundry, food preparation, etc. Any thoughts? (Other bloggers please feel free to chime in...)

Heidi said...

Ladies~ Just wanted to let you know that I'm not anything close to the last word on the best curriculum. :) If you have something that is working for you... awesome! There are so many choices out there, and most of them I haven't seen in person and definitely haven't tried. Not only that, but I only have a 1st/2nd grader!! Please don't second guess yourselves just because of something I post about. :)

The Good~ How fun that you found the map flip chart! I love ours. :)

Carole~ Much of Level A is reviewed at the beginning of Level B. If that worked for you the first time around, I don't know why you couldn't just start at the beginning of B again and go at Will's speed. Maybe that is what I'll do with Luke. He seriously would love to have his own math lesson, he needs to get the basic foundation before moving on, and Levi could probably use the review already. :-P

About the playing... what sort of playing are you talking about? Joining them for puppet shows or legos, being silly and playful, getting time in to connect with Peter, playing board games, or what? (Or all of the above? :))

I rarely actually *play* with the boys (legos, puppet shows, etc.). They do most of that with each other. I would like to plan in some more family game time, maybe one evening a week. Other than that, I just make a point of being *playful* with the boys. We wrestle, make funny faces, or just be silly whenever possible. :) I figure that between those things and the time spent doing lessons (especially reading on the couch together) that they've had enough mom time and independent play time is really important. There are many times that I ask for some personal space to get my work done (or just space out on the couch for a few minutes).

carole said...

I think we probably will just use level B. We'll have to see. I don't want to catch up to Ian too quickly. (I think we are going to catch up to him in reading very easily)

About playing: I think I'm about the same as you, except that I hold myself to needing to do more. I admire those parents that get down on the floor and play make believe with their kids. Do I just not make time for it? Not like it? Not like my kids enough? :) Internally I often wonder about my parenting and think I could/should be more fun. I like your thought of just being silly with them throughout "life." I'll have to think about this some more.

Heather said...

I really needed to read this. I have been stuck for almost three weeks in unable-to-decide-land between MUS and Rightstart. And I NEED to order one very very soon. Thanks for posting your experience and recommendations.
And for the others who commented as well, I have found it to be very helpful.