Thursday, May 22, 2014

Right Start Math Drop-out

Okay, I'm finally ready to admit it: we are Right Start Math drop outs.

I love Right Start Math. Truly I do. It helped me improve my own mental math, just teaching Builder Boy the first level! It had great hands on stuff that Builder Boy needed and the way it dealt with numbers really worked for Builder Boy.


It took too long. There was too much stuff to look ahead and plan and get out (even though it's all laid out for you.) And Builder Boy could not just do a set time limit. Oh no, we had to do an entire lesson. And then we had to add on something from a previous lesson that he just LOVED. So that even when it was easy for him, it was still taking much longer than I was willing to spend on it.

We didn't even finish the first book. And I got so sick with Lady Bug's pregnancy, and...yeah. After Lady Bug was born I tried to start it with Early Bird, and it worked for a while. But again, too long. Especially now that I have two students.

I wanted so much to go through the whole program. But the best curriculum isn't one or the other, but rather the one that gets DONE. So I'm not going to be buying the next level. (Which is a bit of a relief money wise, though I still believe that if you have the money and it works for you, you should totally do it.) So what now?

Working on Dreambox
Well, sometime before I had Lady Bug I signed Builder Boy up for a free trial of Dreambox online. I knew after watching for just two days that this was something I was willing to pay for. (And it wasn't too expensive, either!) The on screen abacus they used was the same as the Right Start Abacus, which was good. It also introduced other things that were new to Builder Boy. I was very happy with the way that they presented most things. I had heard that there was an assessment test, and I was confused when nothing I saw him doing looked like an assessment test. The "tests" were actually sprinkled in with the other activity choices. When a new concept popped up with a star on it, it was a test. If you knew it, you moved on and didn't do any more. If you didn't "pass" high enough, or pushed the "I don't know" button, then they teach it to you. Very low key, and perfect for test anxious kids. I really loved the progress reports sent to the parent's e-mail, and the ability at any time to see where exactly he was in various sub sections of math. Also, it was cartoon-y and fun. It had a built in reward system and other "games" (that were actually math application practice and logic games) and little stories and videos that the kids earned by doing enough activities. It was perfect for Builder Boy and he loved it. Until he didn't. I don't know if it was a lack of practice, scaffolding, or teaching, or if he just wasn't developmentally ready; but somewhere at the end of the 2nd grade materials Builder Boy hit a mental wall and just couldn't go any further and started crying every time I asked him if he wanted to do it.

He'd been playing quite a bit for several months at that point, so I gave him a math break. He'd almost completed 2nd grade math before Christmas, so I wasn't worried about him being behind. Plus, Dreambox saves the child's progress, even if we dropped our membership for a while.

December is when I was dealing with the worst of my postpartum depression, so math got dropped for several months. In February I purchased the first six Life of Fred books (grades K, 1, & 2.) Builder Boy devoured them up in a week. We've started going though them a bit more slowly now together, once in a while.

Around that time we also started working on telling time. I mostly made stuff up and got Pinterest ideas for that.

Sometime around March I picked up Second Grade Math in Action (Sylvan Workbooks) (Math Workbooks) at Costco, and we did whatever Builder Boy felt like in that for math.

Taking the ADAM
Around this time I started looking into Math Mammoth workbooks. I really liked that they had not only grade level books, but subject specific books to work on areas that needed more practice. Since we'd been practically unschooling math, I thought it would be good to get a better idea of where Builder Boy was. So I signed him up for the ADAM K-7 by the same company that produces the DORA. Like the DORA it was online, so no writing (yay!) and adaptive, which means less time wasted, and you're not stuck in one grade level only. His scores left me a bit more confused, however. (I still recommend it! Worth the $20.) But as part of the report it offered the Khan Academy lessons that corresponded with his lower scoring areas.

I've been hearing about Khan Academy for years; since I first started reasarching homeschooling online. They're free (yay!) so I signed Builder Boy up. It is not a cute and there's no play like Dreambox. It is just plain math. But you can earn badges, which fills Builder Boy with pride. And the teaching videos are great.

Builder Boy has been working faithfully on Khan Academy since early April, and he's almost finished with the Early Math (K-2nd Grade) stuff. Their assessments make you prove more times that you can do it, and I like that. It makes advancement a little bit slower, but so far it hasn't frustrated Builder Boy. There are things that the videos, which teaches, I'm thinking, a more traditional way, that sometimes aren't everything Builder Boy needs on his own. But because I'm watching a little bit, and I watched some of Dreambox, I can tell him "remember, it's like __________ on Dreambox?" And that different way he learned months ago he can then apply to the Khan Academy problem, and then he's good. It's only been a month and a half, but I've seen a great jump in his confidence and his ablity.

So now the plan is to finish the Early Math and then continue to 3rd Grade Math at Builder Boy's own pace throughout the summer, taking a break near the end of the summer. (We school year round. At least, that's always the plan.) In the fall we will do Math Mammoth 4 days a week and Khan Academy on the 5th or for extra fun or to earn extra rewards or something. I'm looking forward to having Builder Boy take the ADAM again next year and see the difference.

I don't know if Math Mammoth is going to be the curriculum for us or if we'll have to go looking next year. At least it's pretty inexpensive in comparison to Right Start. (I'm planning on buying the pdf and printing it out.)
Links in this blog post will either take you to the main website of the company mentioned or another blog post of mine with further information. Only the link for the workbook is an affiliate link. The rest are linked purely for your convenience.


  1. I had the same problem with Right Start. It's a wonderful program, I love it to teeny tiny bits... but it is SO INVOLVED. And there is So Much Repetition. Mad Natter HATES repetition. Shuts right down.

    We tried Dreambox as well! But, the problem I had there was that the early assessments were, again, repetition. Mad Natter would get halfway through, get bored, and back out. So it showed his skill levels at pre-k, when if I sat with him for those same assessments, he leveled out at mid 2. Big difference, and utterly defeating the purpose of the program - if I have to have him on my lap in order to make sure he's doing the 'testing' appropriately, and not left sobbing by the mind-numbing repetition, then what's the point of putting him on the computer in the first place?

    We've also made the move to Math Mammoth. It is very like Right Start, though with less in the way of perpetual repeating, and paperwork, and more 'let's do this' type things. We moved Mad Natter from RS-B in January. From August to January, he'd covered about 1/3 of the program, and I was having serious concerns about his retention. Since January, he's finished chapters 1 and 2 of Math Mammoth, and will be finishing chapter 3 in the next two weeks, marking the end of MM1A. I'm calling this a complete win, and while he still doesn't exactly love math, he doesn't actively cry about having to do even part of a lesson anymore.

  2. The good thing about Right Start is that even if you move to another program you still have all the manipulatives. Those will be useful for years.


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