Real Life Family Unschool Maths

A few years ago, when my daughter Sophie was 10, she started to say, “I’m no good at maths. I hate it!”

At the time, Sophie was using a formal structured maths course. When she started sighing over her work, I knew that it was time to face an uncomfortable idea and unschool maths.

Of course, I could have forced Sophie to keep working at her course. I could have ignored her complaints and pushed her to complete the exercises. I could have said, “You need to learn maths. This is important.”

But I didn’t.

There were a few reasons I threw away the structured maths course. It was failing to ignite Sophie’s interest in what is potentially a fascinating subject. It was also undermining her confidence. And lastly, I knew if I forced Sophie to do the course work, she’d be wasting her time. She might work her way through all the exercises, ticking off the boxes, but would she retain much of what she was learning?

John Holt said:

Of course, a child may not know what he may need to know in ten years (who does?), but he knows, and much better than anyone else, what he wants and needs to know right now, what his mind is ready and hungry for. If we help him, or just allow him, to learn that, he will remember it, use it, build on it. If we try to make him learn something else, that we think is more important, the chances are that he won’t learn it, or will learn very little of it, that he will soon forget most of what he learned, and what is worst of all, will before long lose most of his appetite for learning

We can’t force kids to learn what we think is important even though we often spend a lot of time trying to do just that.

In this week’s podcast, Episode 99: Real Life Family Unschool Maths, I continue the unschool maths conversation:

  • Can we force kids to learn things they don’t want to know about?
  • What if we have to show evidence that our kids are learning maths for homeschool registration purposes?
  • Why should we sometimes put ourselves in our kids’ shoes?
  • How can we become maths detectives?
  • What is wrong with most maths games?
  • Can we approach maths backwards?

I also share a few learning and maths blog posts and discuss the ideas in them:

Podcast Music: Twombly by Podington Bear(CC BY-NC 3.0)



Images: Gemma-Rose is sitting next to big brother Duncan. Family gatherings around the table are special occasions. We share a meal with people we love. And while we’re doing that, we also share a lot of real life maths!

After listening to this podcast or reading the post Why Kids With Families Don’t Need Workbooks to Learn Basic Maths Skills, you’ll be familiar with one of our family maths stories. But I’d like to hear yours. You could share a few maths facts about your family!

And if you have a question that I can answer in Episode 100, please stop by and ask it! 

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    • Chrissy Florence
    • June 21, 2017

    Thank you, Sue, for the lovely podcast! I am enjoying listening to it each week! I would love to hear more episodes!

    1. Reply


      I really appreciated your feedback on my podcast. If you’ve listened to this week’s episode you’ll know I’m going to make more episodes (as long as I can think of interesting things to talk about!).

      Thank you so much for taking the time to write a comment!

    • Deb
    • June 27, 2017

    Thanks Sue. I love your podcasts and your posts. Thank you for all your efforts, I hope you continue to make podcasts but you have left us a lot of material to go through if you decide not to make any more podcasts. My children & I are looking forward to the next book of the Angel family adventures. Both books were great family stories.

    1. Reply


      You are wonderfully encouraging! Thank you! When you get a chance to listen to last week’s podcast you’ll hear that I decided to keep podcasting. As long as I can find enough interesting things to talk about and people want to listen, I’ll make new episodes. I really appreciate your kind feedback.

      It’s also good to know that you and your children want to read more of my Angels stories. I promised my Goddaughter I’d finish the 3rd book. I hope it doesn’t take me forever to do that!

      Thank you for being such a supportive and encouraging friend.

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