In a panic. My child is way behind.

This is a fairly frequent question.

Often, a parent reports that they've spent a fortune on one or more other curricula and have wasted years.

The material was boring and repetitive, and very little was retained.

The material was mathematically light-weight.

They are now ready for Fred (= inexpensive, fun, not drill-and-kill, and mathematically complete).

Unfortunately, there is no magic way to zoom through the mathematics that needs to be learned. (That being said, it should be noted that many of the Life of Fred courses take about half the time that it takes in a government school setting. We don't have football rallies and teacher-training days.)

Click here and head to the Where to Start page.

One last thought: Please don't try to artificially accelerate by skipping ahead or doing two books at once. That can only result in MMP (Major Math Pain), which the Life of Fred series has done its best to avoid.

My child is progressing too quickly

There is no hurry to complete the Life of Fred series.

It doesn't take as long for a student to learn the mathematics using Fred. Sitting in a government school room takes a much longer time: football rally days, discipline issues, teacher-training days, attendance taking, a slow pace so that the inattentive finally "get it"—the list is almost endless.

Physiological Speed Limits

Brains grow, just like bodies grow. Teaching logarithmns to three-year-olds just doesn't work.

There is an old saying that you shouldn't start algebra until you have hair under your arms. A child's brain needs to develop physiologically before tackling the abstractions that algebra contains.

Most children will get through the ten books in the Elementary Series and the three books in the Intermediate Series long before they are ready for Life of Fred: Fractions(which is usually begun in about the fifth grade). That's okay.

Many kids will see their favorite movies several times. This may also be true with the books in the Elementary and Intermediate Series. There is so much packed into these books. Revisiting them after a break of six months or so may be very profitable.

“How can I teach them the tables?” you might ask.

There are lots of fun ways. Much of it occurs in daily living, if you consciously mix in a little arithmetic. Count the socks. Measure out three cups of flour. Count by twos. Count by fives.

The Game of Questions

When my daughters and I had a trip in the car, we would play the game I called Questions. It was wildly popular with them. I had questions about everything. Question number one: What color do you get when you mix blue and yellow paint? Question number two: Name two constellations in the sky. Question number three: What's seven times four? Question number five: What's the green stuff in plants called? Question number six: If a curb is painted red, what does that mean? Question number seven: Doubling what number will give you 14?

The younger daughter always had first crack at each question. If she couldn't get it, then the older daughter could try.

Sometimes we'd get through 30 questions before the trip was over. They would sometimes ask to continue the game after we got out of the car, but I would refuse. It became something they looked forward to when we were in the car.

I would repeat about 30% of the questions on future trips. They learned that trees that lost their leaves in winter were deciduous and the green stuff in plants is called chlorophyll.

When my older daughter Jill took her college-entrance exam, she told me that she nearly laughed out loud. One of the questions was, “Name the green stuff in plants.”

How to I grade my child's work?

Do you yourself enjoy being graded?

One of the glories of homeschooling is that learning can be a more natural thing. The only thing that really counts is whether or not your child has achieved mastery over the material—not how long it took.

I encourage you not to put any grading pressure on your child.

Two Thoughts about Grading

1) For internal use only. If you insist on grading your child, and your child is working in the books that have The Bridge (those books before Life of Fred: Beginning Algebra Expanded Edition), then the requirement listed in the book is that the child must get at least 90% correct at any Bridge in order to proceed any further in the book. By almost anyone's standards, your child is showing mastery of the material and should receive an A.

In the books starting with Life of Fred: Beginning Algebra Expanded Edition, there are three Cities at the end of each chapter. If the student can do any one of the three Cities with only one error, then award an A for that chapter.

If the student's best score on the six Cities is three errors, then a B.

Four errors = C

Five errors = F

2) For transcripts. I taught for years at the high school and at the college level. Grading is, in the final analysis, so subjective. Does there exist, for example, an "objective" measure of one's acting ability? Or of one's compassion for the plight of humanity?

Even when I taught the same math course at the college level during the day and during the evening, I used different standards of grading in the two classes.

Uniform standards for grading simply do not exist. The 90-80-70-60 standard is, in my opinion, hogwash. It depends so much on how hard the questions are. When I was a student a thousand years ago, those teachers that proclaimed they were grading 90-80-70-60 often had to make "adjustments" after the test was given because too many students scored either too high or too low.

I've been told that the average grade today at Stanford University is A-. There has been an extreme inflation in grades over the last 50 years at many schools. The average grade used to be C.

If you are called upon to have to report to external authorities (e.g., on a transcript), the only reasonable grade you should report is A. Honest. I'm not kidding. Grading is not objective. To give a grade of B, is to almost certainly exclude your child from a chance of attending some universities. Why do you think that SAT exams are given? That's the only real way to level the playing field.