Little T loves the guy pictured above. His name is Fred.
Who is Fred, you ask. Well, he is the 5-year-old math professor at Kittens University who encounters the need for math in his everyday life, and then encourages his students to do math with him.
Let me explain. Fred is the main character in the amazing series of math “textbooks” called Life of Fred. Fred is fairly new in the homeschooling scene, but has gained fans in children of all ages, Little T included. It presents math in short story format that is funny and highly engrossing.
Author Stanley F. Schmidt, Ph. D. says in the introduction of his books that “the Life of Fred series contains more mathematics than any other math curriculum” that he knows of. Yet, the series teaches math – and a zillion other things such as deciduous trees, ellipses, and the story of the Titanic, to name a few – in a very gentle manner.
I discovered Life of Fred more than a year ago, when I was searching for something to help me teach math to my kids. Probably like most parents who did not particularly do well in math in school, I am quite insecure about my ability to teach the dreaded subject. (I’m proud, though, that I was at least able to teach Little T how to count and to do basic addition and subtraction just through conversations. Whew!)
When I stumbled upon Fred, my heart started to pound with excitement. I developed a crush, maybe? Seriously, it’s math like I’ve never seen before. I hankered to buy the whole elementary set, which is composed of ten hardcover books and can be used from Kindergarten to 4th Grade. I persuaded my big sister to share with me, as her kids are a bit older than mine and we will not be using the same volumes at the same time anyway.
Why I Fell In Love With Fred
Let me share with you Dr. Schmidt’s take on a child’s education, which he brings to his math series and that resonates with me.
Reading is important because learning does not stop once we get our school diploma.
Obviously, our family loves reading and we heartily agree with Dr. Schmidt. Each Life of Fred chapter is about six pages long and consists of a funny short story about Fred and his adventures. The problems that he encounters involve math, such as how long he has to wait if his class is at 7 o’clock and it’s just 5 o’clock now.
After each chapter, there are around four to six questions that the child must answer before being allowed to proceed. Though the author says to do just one chapter a day, Little T begs to do more, as she can’t wait to see what happens next. I think it’s the usual problem with Fred’s good friends.
Learning math should fit into real life.
As we go through our homeschooling journey, I am convinced everyday that what we learn should actually fit into our lives. Farewell to senseless drudgery, hello to relevance. Fred encourages this through the clever stories, as he uses math to solve problems he encounters in his life.
Education should be integrated.
Our family has learned from Five in a Row that “subjects” are integrated and connected with each other, that when we talk about a topic in science, it can also come up in language arts and history. They are not necessarily separate. That’s why we fully embrace the “side stories” in Life of Fred, as we learn much more than just math. Dr. Schmidt peppers his stories with facts and food for thought on different areas such as astronomy, music, and history.
If Life of Fred is such a good find, why didn’t I share about it earlier?
Well, to be honest, even though I agree with Dr. Schmidt in principle, I still could not let go of the conventional way of thinking about math. I was too scared that “just” reading, and not doing the drills that I grew up with won’t be enough. So while I let Little T enjoy Fred, at the back of my mind I was thinking if we should be doing something more. And you know me; I won’t talk about, much less recommend, something that I am not entirely sure of.
Little T has finished the first book, Apples, and is breezing through Butterflies, the second one in the series. In the year that I was unsure about Fred, though, I learned to imitate his approach to math and life. I make the effort to find math problems in our daily life and at the same time review math facts just by talking and asking and answering math questions. We supplement a bit, and are now more comfortable with him.
Check out Life of Fred, if you are looking for something to make math fun and alive for your kids. Some homeschooling families use it as their core math curriculum and supplement with other materials, while others do the reverse. Either way, Life of Fred can very well be your child’s favorite math book!