Friday, September 7, 2012

Life Of Fred - Elementary As A Stand Alone

I should have named this post...LoF Joy - or How Not To Get Math Burnout  :^)

I've seen LOTS of criticism on the homeschool board about using Life Of Fred (LoF) elementary.  Mostly it revolves around it not being a stand alone curriculum.    I seriously can't figure this one out...really.  You don't need to supplement.  BUT you do need to understand how it works.  I HIGHLY recommend you going to Dr. Stanley Schmidt's site and reading ALL of it.  Life Of Fred Elementary series was meant to be done over and over....not just one time.

For our backstory we use this and have now for about a year along with Mathtacular! and Math Lessons For A Living Education. So I feel pretty qualified to answer this one.    

First I'm sure you just noticed I use other stuff.  I don't use them as my "main" curriculum so they are in fact my "other" fun stuff.    I read Fred to my non-readers and have them answer it verbally because they are just learning to write and I don't feel the need to burden them further with trying to write the answer.  They WILL write it when they go through it again when they can read it on their own.  Yes,  that's right,  I said again.  If you go on the website for LoF you'll notice it says that it's meant to do a couple of times (my wording).  Why?  How many times have you had to read that same book your kid is infatuated with??  That's because when kids are under about 9is they LOVE repetition.  So going over stuff a couple (or a whole lot more than a couple) is enjoyable.  I know...I feel your pain.  I no longer have books in my house that I can't stand to read over and over so there's a free tip for ya if you hate something you're having to read over and over.  Substitute it with something you CAN deal with.  It's that same repetition idea for Fred.  The second time through they pick up even more info than the last time and believe me there is A LOT more than math in there.  

What about the memorizing tables you ask?  Fred doesn't go over that for addition and subtraction but it does for multiplication. Why?  Because that should be something fun you do at home not some torture that everyone has to go through.  So how do you do the tables?  Well you can toss a ball, jump them, play bingo, invent a game using dice or cards name.  We use an origami fortune teller paper before you freak out it's that game you did in school it's nothing weird.  Instead of fortunes it's the 6 or 7 times table and then their "fortune" is stuff like do 3 jumping jacks or hop on one foot 6 times sort of thing.  

Back to what a kid actually needs to know for elementary math.  What does a kid actually need to know that you don't do all day long?  Tell time?  Money?  Temperature? Fractions?  Aren't those things you do ALL day? Yes they are.  Just go to the grocery store if you want some math skills.  Seriously!     Now stay with me here, I use the Moore Fornula which is kinda a hybrid unschooling method.  Now I know there are unschoolers who will argue with that but stay with me.  Here's a personal story about the color red.  See I never taught my sons red...or any other color.  Why?  Because it's around them all the time and they picked up on it themselves.  Guess what?  I didn't teach them 1-100 too much either.  As a matter of fact I didn't teach them 1-10 at all because it's used so much in daily life they just picked up on it and they understood the quantity that went with the number which is the crucial part of numbers.   How did that happen?  Hand me those 2 socks...or hand me 3 get the idea.   Now here's the important part.  THEY learned them when THEY were ready not when some curriculum told me it was time.  Just like walking and talking.  Are my kids some kind of math genii? ...doubtful.  Just normal kids who play and explore....a lot!  That isn't to say there aren't rules and such which is why I'm not a card carrying member of the radical unschool group.  Anyways, This is the way Fred works.  Daily life and math...simple.  I think that's why it looks like it's not really teaching anything....that's how teaching REALLy is...just Everyday life...simple.

So that brings me back to LoF.  My husband who's college education was all about the hard sciences...physics anyone?...told me specifically NOT to ditch Fred.  He heard me reading it one night to the kids for our night time read aloud and loved it.  He loved it so much he showed it to HIS parents and said I wish this was around when I was a I need to say more?  I think the part that is so incredibly hard for parents to understand with Fred is that it requires your kid to think...not fill in the blank or jump through some hoop that's useless.    Do my kids get it every time? No.  But guess what?  This won't be the first time they're going to hear it either.  Daddy also does his part by having what we call "homeschool moments" with them all the he's at the hardware store and says "if we get these 8 screws and I use 3 of them on that project we are doing together, how many are left"?  Or how many planets are there?  Or why does the moon not crash into the Earth?"  Learning is happening all the time if you are living with your kids...not just surviving the day.

What happens if your kid is like 8 or 9 when he's fully getting LoF elementary you ask?  Rejoice I imagine!  Math Party, gift, week off then... move on to the next in the series.  For me it means that my kids are learning at their rate and not mine.  If they get stuck...time off.  Take a week off (or more) and watch some Mathtacular!, do some MLFLE, play some games.  Then strangely!  They know what was so hard for them just the week earlier.  In the Moore Formula way of thinking it's called Integrated Maturity Level.    When they hit the IML for whatever they are learning they'll get it in a day not months....and months...of you tearing your hair out and them crying. your kids.


  1. What an awesome post. I was looking for specific criticisms of LoF because I'd heard random people say, "Don't use that. It's not complete enough." And so on. I completely agree with your methodology of homeschooling. I've never heard of the Moore Formula (or MIL) before but am instinctively doing this with my 7th-grader this year (breaks for growth and maturity) and it seems to be working well. Thanks so much for posting this. Encouraging and enlightening.

  2. Kim,

    I'm so glad this post was encouraging for you and ultimately your daughter's journey in homeschooling :) It's hard sometimes to be brave and believe what your doing is right when no one else is doing it. Kuddos mama!

    Barking Mad Mom


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