First, let me say that I haven’t been paid and have not received any free or discounted curriculum for this review. I’m not even an affiliate! I did have the privilege of interviewing the author, Stanley Schmidt, on the Homeschool Sanity Show, however.
I started using Life of Fred when my oldest (now beginning his first year of college) was a fifth grader. I had read a review of Life of Fred and thought it sounded perfect for my son who was a voracious reader. Rather than present basic formulas with lots of mathematical equations to solve, Life of Fred read like a story about a kid named Fred. Fred encountered many funny situations that required math. The author would speak directly to the student and would offer not pages of problems, but a “turn to play.”
Life of Fred with Advanced Learners
My oldest, an advanced learner, loved it! I often found him chuckling while doing math. I found him motivated to get at least 9 of 10 problems correct so he could pass the “bridge” and not have to do a different set of ten problems. As a psychologist, I thought this approach was genius. Why should a homeschooled student want to complete a page of problems when he would just be faced with another?
My son sailed through the books until Algebra. I should say that he used Beginning Algebra before the curriculum was revised. Then it sat there untouched. I explained to him that he could be doing college-level math while in high school if he would complete the books quickly. That motivated him as did the fact that his private-schooled friends had completed algebra ahead of him (he’s a little competitive). He then flew through beginning and advanced algebra, geometry, and trigonometry and was so enamored with it that he wanted to major in math in college. Then he took Calculus BC AP through Pennsylvania Homeschoolers. He did well, but told me that college math wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as Life of Fred. My oldest didn’t use any other math curriculum in conjunction with Life of Fred and scored very well in math on the ACT.
Life of Fred with Different Learning Styles
After my oldest son’s success with Life of Fred, I assumed that all my children would use it. Then I presented it to my second oldest son (two years younger). He hated it. I was stunned! He also liked to read. What was the difference? My second oldest is a detail-oriented young man of few words, so he couldn’t really explain why he didn’t like it. I had him using traditional curriculum instead until last year. Because he is meticulous, it was taking him a very long time to get through traditional math texts with oh-so-many problems. And he wasn’t happy about not doing them all. You know the type, right? I finally convinced him to give Life of Fred another try and he is happy as a high school junior, for nothing else than he doesn’t have too many problems to solve.
I also have a freshman in high school, a third grader, and a fifth grader using Life of Fred without any difficulty this year. They don’t complain about math and that makes me happy! But I have a son who has had some challenges you should know about. My 7th grader just wants to get the work done. I bet you know that type, too! He is using Pre-Algebra with Biology and will tell me that he hasn’t been given the information he needs to solve the problems. It’s nowhere in the book, he says. To be fair, he does this with other subjects, too. But I have since realized that this is a concern for kids who want to see a mathematical example of what to do at the top of the page. If you have a child who has trouble maintaining focus or comprehending what he is reading, this may not be the best curriculum for you. However, I will say that I am so glad this curriculum has pointed out the problem with skimming material to my son. He can’t rely on the little cheat for how to do the problem that he is used to from using Mastering Essential Math Skills last year. He has to remember what he is learning. The bridges are super motivating for him, too.
My children haven’t started with the elementary books because they weren’t available when I invested in Life of Fred. I sought out other options. I have read critiques that there is not enough focus on memorizing math facts in elementary math. I haven’t verified that, but I do recommend doing everything possible to ingrain math facts in your children’s heads. I have talked about using Learn Math Fast for this purpose. I love its 30-second and one-minute tests that have to be passed before students can continue. I am also enjoying using the free online flashcards from Fact Monster. Nothing motivates my kids to commit facts to memory more than a treat of some kind. Hint, hint.
Life of Fred math is a superb curriculum for advanced learners, for students who prefer to learn math by reading, and students who are motivated to mastery by getting out of work. Students who prefer to focus on numbers or who struggle with reading comprehension, may not like it. Check out the sample pages on Life of Fred.com and these additional reviews: