You may have noticed in my Math: A Four Letter Word post, that we are big fans of Life of Fred around here. So much so that the middle child spent one Christmas making a Fred doll for her baby sister. So, I decided to list some of the reasons for our love of the adorable height-challenged mathematician.
Why We Love Life of Fred
#1 He’s a kid.
A kid who thinks like a kid, but with infinitely more knowledge than the typical five-year-old (or 4, if you’re currently in the Readers series). He has odd views about food, money, and life. He is super trusting and generally naïve when it comes to the harshness of the world. In other words, he’s just like your kids — fresh and inquisitive, full of heart and unjaded.
#2 Fred is funny.
Ok, not in the SNL or Jon Stewart way, but he’s corny and silly and appeals to the kid in all of us.
#3 He teaches math through life.
It’s not overt. It’s not in your face. It’s just math — simple, that’s-how-you-use-it-in-real-life math. Why do you need to know Algebra? Because someday you may want to know what tax is on that hilarious “I’m with Stupid” t-shirt.
#4 It stops the melt-downs.
Ok, so this may not be an issue at your house. At our house, it is. L- simply hated Singapore Math her last year of traditional school. She came home with tons of homework and didn’t understand most of the steps she was required to show. Oh, she understood how to get the answer, but she had no idea what they were doing in the book or what her teacher had taught her that day. And, she was stressed out by the timed daily drills.
So, when I bought Horizon at the beginning of our homeschooling journey, it looked too much like another year of torture. She was fried from so many “drill and kill” worksheets and I was exhausted from grading them. The tears began to flow as soon as the math books were opened and the morning usually dissolved into complete “meltdown mode” a few minutes later.
The first day she picked up Life of Fred Apples she sat down and read the whole book, in-one-day. She answered every question and began to have confidence in herself and her math abilities. She blew through the first few books, as they were mostly review, and finally slowed down to a chapter a day in Life of Fred Dogs.
#5 Math comprehension has drastically improved.
The girls have never had much difficulty answering straightforward questions like 7-4=3 or 25*5=125. However, like most students, they did have a bit of a harder time with word problems like “If there are 25 students who each need 5 pieces of paper, how many pieces of paper should the teacher buy?”
As a former high school math teacher, the word problem was the bane of my teaching career. Most of my students would immediately create a wall when they saw a word problem. It didn’t matter that most of them could easily solve the problem if I laid it out with just numbers. As soon as they saw words (or for that matter an x) everything came to a screeching halt. The majority of the problems in Life of Fred are word problems. They require you to find the math inside the problem and solve it. The fear of “words” in math is non-existent in our home.
#6 Dr. Stanley Schmidt, the author, is easily available via email, snail mail and even by phone.
Yes, you read that correctly. You can call the author of the books and ask him questions when you are stuck. As a parent, this one is probably my favorite. I have emailed Dr. Schmidt and received a follow-up email within a few hours. If you are to find a printing error, you can email him and he will send you a list of all errata in the books.
As much as we love Fred, we realize that there are some differences in this math program that, to some, are deal-breakers.
Dr. Schmidt does not organize Life of Fred in a conventional or Common Core manner.
If these things are important to you (i.e. you plan on enrolling your child in traditional school in the near future), then this is probably not the curriculum for you.
The books are short in the elementary years and will not fill an entire year of curriculum
There are ways to accommodate this. The author suggests that each book should be read through more than once. If your child is the type to refuse to read a math book more than once, then you may want to supplement. There are several worksheets that have been created and listed in the Files section of the Life of Fred Facebook page. I’ve created or modified a few of these that you can find by clicking the graphic below: Apples Printables by Chapter (designed by Becca Burhans), Butterflies by Chapter (joint between Becca Burhans & myself) and Cats by Chapter.
You may also choose to supplement with another curriculum. We chose Math-U-See as a supplement for two reasons. First, the lessons are short and you can choose how many worksheets you want to do. Second, MUS is designed topically. So, mastery of a concept is expected before moving to the next topic. Since Life of Fred is spiral (meaning it circles back to things already taught), I thought they would complement each other nicely. And so far, they have. We also use lots of math games to help reinforce topics. Several of those were mentioned in the previous Math post.
*NOTE: I am only finding that this is the case throughout the Elementary series. Once a student reaches Fractions, LOF provides a substantial curriculum that does not need to be supplemented.
Some important things to note about the Life of Fred curriculum:
It is expected, for the most part, that the student will be independent in their learning.
This doesn’t mean that the parent hands over the book and walks away. This means that the student needs to reason the math for themselves.
In our house, it looks like this: I sit down with one of the girls as she reads her chapter to me. (Mine love to read. If your child does not, feel free to read aloud.) They read through the Your Turn To Play (a few questions at the end of the chapter) and work the problems with my supervision. If they need help, I try to point them in the right direction. After they finish the YTTP, they flip the page over and check their answers. We only complete one chapter a day and generally no more than four chapters a week.
Once my children get to Life of Fred Fractions and beyond, I expect my kids to work independently. However, I am available when they have questions.
It is spiral, in concept.
This means that it may be difficult to jump in mid-series. My youngers both started in Life of Fred Apples and worked at their own pace until they reached a significant amount of new material. My oldest was able to start in Life of Fred Algebra. However, he had to go back to Beginning Algebra, even though he had already finished Saxon Algebra 1, because of the order the material was introduced. This didn’t really slow him down, as he was able to complete both Life of Fred Beginning Algebra and Life of Fred Advanced Algebra in the same year. Most of the concepts he knew and understood, but there were a few that were new to him.
The books are non-consumable.
Each student needs a notebook they can use for their YTTP. We like the Studio C notebooks because they have a zipper pocket where we can keep pencils and flashcards. This means that I only have to buy one textbook for the whole family!
Have you used Life of Fred with your children?