Thursday, July 28, 2011

love is in the air

My son has a new love.

It's shiny and colourful,

big and bold;

it's filled with information, pictures,
little tid-bits of Stuff that interest and excite him.

It's a…

Maths Textbook.

Yes. It's true! One of Those, being used in a house of life learners/ unschoolers/ natural learners!


Because it's exactly what my son wanted.

He finished the first two books of Life of Fred and was ready for a Fred break.

He read as much as he wanted of The Number Devil, for now.

He read all the Sir Cumference stories, plus A Place for Zero, What's your Angle Pythagorus, the Multiplying Menace books, Pythagorus and the Ratios, and Rabbits Rabbits Everywhere.

He played games on Mathsisfun and Coolmath. He had tried online learning through MathleticsStudyladder and Mathsonline (none of which he was into at all. He is, we have discovered, not an online learner).

He played Monopoly, Uno, and Mythmatical Battles (which is a card game he loves).


he wanted more.

So I said, "Would you like a book, a maths textbook? Something you can read, and work through at your own pace?"

(This being exactly what he didn't want, for ages and ages. But he loved maths and wanted to learn it. Hence all the living maths books and games!)

"Oh!" said my son, "Yes PLEASE!"

Okay, then. One maths textbook coming right up :)

I pored over the internet, read about different types of books, tried to see what books had the type of exercises my son liked. (No excessive repetition, no endless drills, lots of open-ended questions, lots of information, high level thinking, and colour). I thought I had one picked, then thought, How can I buy one online without getting my mitts on it, touching those pages, seeing exactly how it works, and most importantly: showing my boy and having him say, Yes or No?

Which is when serendipity stepped in.

A trip to Sydney was already planned for last Saturday, and was almost entirely open ended. My son suggested we go to Kinokuniya, the book store. He'd gone there with his aunt for a special birthday treat a month ago. It was now, officially, "The Best Book Store Ever!" according to him.

Well, I think he could be right! It was MASSIVE. And filled to the brim with books, and couches and cushions and people browsing, and that delicious energy you get from being around words and people who love them. It was scrumptious.

And it was perfect for a mama looking for a maths book for her boy.

I went to the Maths section. SO many books! A smorgasbord, really. I found two Year 7 books that seemed close to what my son liked. I called him over. We sat together, and opened those crisp pages, breathed in the New Book smell. Ah. Sigh. He loved the one with the information boxes telling him unusual facts about numbers and mathematicians and discoveries. He loved the colour. The small, manageable sections. The text. The look and feel and heft of it (that puppy was big!).

It was like picking out a bike—that one so bright and bold and fast looking?

"That's the one!" he said, grinning. "Let's get it!"

Then off he skipped, leaped, flew, to the Graphic Novels section of the store, where we all spent a sweet hour breathing in the wonderful stories there.

First thing on Monday morning, he sat and opened this shiny new world of maths. He asked me where he should write his answers. "A notebook?" I suggested. Together we found a spare exercise book, shiny and new, too.

He decided to begin at the beginning (which, he thought, was a Very Good Place to Start). He sat and worked, I don't know for how long; he worked until he felt done.

"Is that enough?" he asked.

I said, "Does it feel like enough? It's up to you, you know."

Together we figured out that if he does a small section and the corresponding exercises each day (Monday to Friday), he'll easily finish up in a year, if that's what he wants. He can do more, or less, as he chooses. There will be parts he'll know already (thanks to Life of Fred) and he won't have to do them. Some parts might be harder. He might go slower then; he might want to look other things up to help him. And he may not finish the book. That is okay with me, if it's okay with him.

Two days ago, he said, "I'm done for now, but can't wait for tomorrow!" Yesterday he did two sections, because he just didn't want to stop.

This book, and this kind of maths learning

is what my son loves.

He loves having a sense of routine, and he loves learning from books. He loves having a clean, fresh notebook to write in (and it looks unbelievably neat in there! Every answer written so carefully, lovingly. You can tell the work is precious to him). He loves knowing that the textbook is there, waiting for him every morning, to learn more from.

When he does this work,
at his very own table,
where he also writes his stories, designs his buildings, reads his information books, and draws his cartoons,

he is in his Element.

I think he actually radiates joy.

In fact, I'm pretty sure that if we sat beside him as he worked
(but not too close! He likes his space!),

we would walk away golden.



  1. How awesome is that? I love how he loves numbers. I think it's really cool that he wants to tackle all of this joyfully, with his heart full. Such a neat kid.

  2. So who says that unschoolers would choose video games over learning? (mind you, there are some games that have wonderful learning in them too). Sometimes, kids WANT to learn maths. And sometimes a textbook will help!

    I loved my textbooks - I would read ahead, I would figure out how to do stuff by myself from those boxes and worked examples - the teacher was way too slow. I loved the order it gave and I could see how everything fitted together. Sometimes, textbooks rock!

    Thank you for sharing :-)

  3. Your posts always put a smile on my face but this one got me smiling from cheek to cheek. Sounds like you have a great kid and a great mom who allows him to follow his heart!

  4. Wow! I am so impressed! I love that this is what he wanted and he loves it! That is like the coolest thing everrrrr!

  5. This is a fantastic story! I found a math website on Monday and my kids CANNOT drag themselves away from it. All day long I hear "mom, I want to play the game" and "it's MY turn now!"

    We haven't done anything else all week, but I really don't care.

  6. He is the epitome of an autodidact, what every unschooling mama hopes for. His enthusiasm is infectious and watching him burst with passion for knowledge is so exciting!! And that bookstore---swoooon!!!!
    On another note, I have to give you a big, long virtual hug for your comment this past week. I can't tell you how much you filled my heart and soul. I am so extremely grateful for the friend I found in you...
    much love to you Helena, and to your beautiful family

  7. I think your son's attitude is fantastic. So open to trying new things and exploring his own unique learning style! It's wonderful:)
    We have often used textbooks too. Bujana who is 7 loves the feeling of accomplishment when she's finished a new page in her maths book.
    What a great Mama you are being so responsive to your child's individuality!
    Have a beautiful weekend.

  8. so amazing! and i think all kids have this innate sense of curiosity and love of learning but school systems simply dont give them a chance to express it.

  9. How I have missed your posts. We have been so busy with Kei's play. Thankfully it is over..for now.

    I agree, this is exactly how it should be. You have gotten it down perfectly. In fact, please come help me with my 'unschooling'. We have an extra bedroom. ;) Hugs to you back to catching up.

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  12. This is a fantastic story! I found a math website on Monday and my kids can not drag themselves away from it. All day long I hear "mom, I want to play the game" and "it's MY turn now!"Thanks for sharing interesting gaming post.


I love hearing from you! Thank you for your heartfelt, thoughtful responses—they lift me, and give me light.