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Verdi and I had a discussion tonight about his use of math curricula. He didn’t remember using Developmental Math way back in kindergarten, did recall Singapore (because of the anime-style art in its pages), and said he loved Life of Fred and wants to read the only book in the series he hasn’t (Physics) but he didn’t want to do all the problems. He agrees with me that Art of Problem-Solving is just too time-intensive. He knows a lot of upper math because of having read through Life of Fred, so he really just wants to punch through a comprehensive overview of the basics to fill in any gaps and solidify what he already has down.

I told him there are fifteen million math programs on the market and asked if it would be okay if I gave him a bunch of sample to look over. He immediately declared a preference for something that has video. That narrowed it down considerably.

We looked at demos for Teaching Textbooks, Plato, Kinetic Books, Thinkwell, Destination Math, Ko’s Journey, Switched on Schoolhouse, and Time4Learning. We had a heck of a time getting Kinetic Books’ demos to load and eventually ruled that out for that reason, even though I think their physics programs look neat. Thinkwell was too wordy and abstract for us; we need more practical and material in our math. Ko’s Journey was laughably gimmicky and playing to our sensitivities, too, using a generically mystical native population as the subject, though I thought it was neat, too, in how it integrated the practical applications. It took too long to load, made Verdi laugh and roll his eyes too much, and was not advanced enough mathematically for him anyway. Destination Math required much to much logging in, setting up accounts, downloading passkeys, etc., so we eventually gave up on sampling that. Also, when Verdi heard that it correlated with Saxon math, he started tapping his fingers in the pattern of the drums on Gallifrey. In Doctor Who, “Saxon,” is a supervillian. Switched On Schoolhouse was just okay. I didn’t like the scope and sequence. Verdi was a bit afraid of the religion. Time4Learning (which we have used in the past) looked like it wouldn’t have enough practice. Navigating it is still a bit awkward. I’d lean against using something with a monthly subscription rate, anyway.

That left Teaching Textbooks and Plato. Verdi likes both equally. Teaching Textbook has a lot of support through practice problems, plus a good resale value, and support for the instructor. I’m familiar with it; I used it with his older stepbrother a few years ago. Plato, though, has more course options, and seems like it has more practical examples of the application of mathematics. I’m not sure which to go forward with. I guess I’ll look up some reviews of Plato and try to get to know it better.

It feels good to have had the conversation with Verdi though, and to feel like he’s on board with this project of beating out the algebra already so he can get on to better things. I wonder if this would work out as well if I give him a choice of writing programs… I was his age when I started writing my own homeschool plans, via Clonlara, after all. Handing his learning over to him isn’t as scary as I thought. I need to remember that we are a team and that I don’t need to worry about losing control or respect just because I give him a say. What a funny thing for a once-unschooled person to have to realize about homeschooling her own kid!

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