Review of Life of Fred (Elementary Series)

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Is math a subject you dread teaching in your homeschool? If so let me introduce you to a very, very funny and interesting homeschool math curriculum called Life of Fred.

My Struggle With Teaching Math

I am not even going to lie, I am not the greatest at teaching math. I stumble even with open and go curriculum.

I went through the Core Plus math program throughout middle & high school and all I remember was grab the calculator before you sit down.

I scored really low for the math portion of my SATs and I have really low confidence when it comes to math in general. I am always double checking myself.

I do, however, like finance. I know. Weird.

While I am OK with teaching my kids lower elementary math, I know that at some point, their dad will have to take over or I need to check out online math programs like CTC Math or Teaching Textbooks.

Why Life of Fred is Unique

Our main math curriculum is Math Mammoth. However, my son really likes the Life of Fred series, mainly because of the humor he finds in the books.

Life of Fred takes a rather unique approach to teaching and learning math, at least I think so.

The format of each book is more like a picture chapter book. There are practice questions at the end of each chapter which the author calls, “Your Turn to Play.” Answers are on the back of the page.

This picture is a sample of practice questions inside the homeschool math curriculum, Life of Fred.
This is a sample of the answers page from the homeschool math curriculum, Life of Fred.

Life of Fred is written in a story/novel format with pictures & diagrams. So, if you child likes to read, he/she will definitely enjoy this.

They are learning math while reading, as well as other tidbits like history facts, grammar rules, science, geography. The author, Stanley F. Schmidt is a retired math professor and does a pretty darn good job at holding the reader’s attention.

The story of Fred is hilarious, to the point where my son is on the floor rolling around, cracking up laughing. No joke.

There are diagrams and pictures and applied math. It’s definitely a conceptual way of learning math. Meaning, it’s NOT just memorizing facts & charts, it’s really how math connects to the real world.

How We Use Life of Fred

Currently, we are using it as a supplement to our main math curriculum, Math Mammoth. Although, I am thinking about using Life of Fred along side with it in the near future just because it really holds my son’s attention.

Perhaps adding it to our Morning Time once my daughter (5 years old) is able to sit through at least one chapter. But, I am in no hurry.

So, I am not quite sure how I will incorporate it into our homeschool yet, but for now it is simply for the enjoyment of my son.

Is Life of Fred a Complete Math Curriculum?

This really depends on your child and your goals as a homeschool parent. Some homeschoolers use Life of Fred as a stand alone and find that their kids are keeping up with the average or even score above average.

But, I really think it depends on the individual and how he/she learns, absorbs, and retains information.

Is Life of Fred a Christian Curriculum?

Although the author is Christian and begins each book with Ad Majoren Dei Gloriam (to the greater glory of God), I haven’t found any majorly overt Christian doctrines. I really don’t think the intention of the author is to convert anyone to Christianity by writing the Life of Fred series.

Which Book to Start With?

Life of Fred goes from first grade all the way up to university level (about 3rd year of college).

I would say (and this is just my opinion), if your child is in the lower elementary age group it would be good to start with Apples and work your way up.

Here is a summary of what is in each level from the Dr. Stanley’s website so you can have an idea.

I also found this website that does a good job giving a summary of what is covered in each book.

Placement Test

If your child is older, and you are not sure if they should go all the way from the very beginning then you might want to use a placement test of some sort.

You can try this one to help guide you or go through the summary from Dr. Stanley’s website and see if you are able to determine a level that is closest to where your child is.

Pricing

For the elementary series, these books individually are about $16 each. This is very much affordable. Even the higher grade levels are affordable compared to many other homeschool math curriculum out there.

You can also just try out one book and see how your kids like them. You can also try to see if you can find them used online or at your local library (that’s where I found them).

Life of Fred: Apples to Jelly Beans

There are ten books in the elementary series. It goes from “A” all the way to “J”. A is for Apple, B is for butterflies, C is for cats, so on and so forth.

Below are my bullet point notes on what is taught in each book.

This is more my own personal reference for our homeschool, I will continue to add my notes as we go along but I thought it may give you an overview of what is covered in each book.

Apples

  • Single digit addition & subtraction
  • Clock & telling time
  • Basic shapes
  • Days of the week
  • Counting by 5’s
  • Concept or role of “0”
  • Intro. to big numbers like tens of thousands, a million
  • Intro. to temperature (x degrees below zero concept)
  • Intro. to rows & columns
  • Intro. to basic algebra
  • Intro. to counting coins
  • Extras:
    • Deciduous trees
    • Story of the Titanic
    • Who is Archimedes
    • Map of U.S. and Pacific & Atlantic Oceans
    • Herbivores & carnivores

Butterflies

  • Single digit addition & subtraction
  • Counting by 2’s and 5’s
  • Days of the week
  • Months of the year
  • Clock & telling time (half past, ten minutes after, 5 minutes to)
  • Yard to feet
  • Pounds to ounces
  • Dozen
  • Triangle, square, perpendicular, right angles
  • Ordinal & cardinal numbers
  • Larger numbers (million, billion, all the way to quintillion)
  • Intro. to calculus
  • Extras
    • Orion’s belt
    • Star of Betelgeuse
    • Light years
    • Andromeda Galaxy
    • Music pieces, movie
    • Random vocabulary like: syncope
    • States in the United States
    • Quotation marks (single vs. double)
    • Place setting

Cats

  • Single digit addition & subtraction
  • Clock & telling time
  • Nickels
  • Cardinal number
  • Quarter
  • 1000
  • Counting by 5’s and 10’s to 100
  • Counting by 2’s and 3’s
  • Random algebra (I say random because it just pops up in the “Your Turn to Play” section; I believe it’s just getting them used to seeing algebra equations).
  • Counting money
  • Patterns
  • Right angles & orthogonal lines
  • Place value (ones, tens, hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, hundred thousands, millions)
  • Decimal & sexagasimal (oldest place value system used in the Babylonian empire) systems
  • Symbol for “not equal”
  • Yard to inches
  • Metric system
  • Prime numbers
  • Extras
    • Mariana Trench
    • Ferdinand Magellan
    • Meaning of “Pacific”
    • Science (germs/infection/blood pressure)
    • Language Art (complete sentences, vowels
    • Emotions
    • Music sheet
    • Morse code
    • Four major oceans

Dogs

  • Vertical addition & subtraction
  • Basic algebra
  • Patterns
  • Consecutive numbers
  • Right angles
  • Doubling
  • At the bank & a budget (intro./basic)
  • Bar graphs
  • Reading clocks
  • “Carrying one” in addition
  • Adding two digits
  • Ordinal & cardinal numbers
  • Extras
    • Middle & Old English
    • Disneyland
    • Choices in life
    • Thinking clearly
    • Music sheet
    • Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
    • Giant list of dogs & a chapter on dogs
    • Idioms
    • Macronutriets
    • Isotopes of hydrogen

Edgewood

  • Concurrent & parallel lines
  • Shapes (squares, rectangles, parallelograms, rhombus, trapezoids)
  • Ordinal & cardinal numbers
  • Median averages
  • Writing numerals in words
  • “Carrying one” in addition
  • Bar graphs
  • Solving exponentials
  • Trillion
  • Couplets
  • Greater than & less than signs
  • Right Angles
  • Matrix (rows & columns)
  • Half hour & quarter hour
  • Miles per hour
  • Percentages
  • Counting by fives
  • Extras
    • Obeying road signs
    • Laws in different states
    • Pronouns
    • Fyodor M. Dostoyevsky
    • Emotions
    • Poetry (rhymes)
    • Constellations
    • Signs of hypothermia & treatment
    • International Date Line
    • Calories
    • Gibbous moon
    • Safety (fastening seat belts)
    • North & South on a map

Farming (will add notes later)

Goldfish (will add notes later)

Honey (will add notes later)

Ice Cream (will add notes later)

Jellybeans (will add notes later)

Wrapping Up

Check out Life of Fred if you are looking for a change or even just starting out. I think it’s a fresh, unique, and fun approach to math that your kids might enjoy.

Oh! Before I forget, there are Life of Fred Facebook groups like this one that I am in if you think you need more support.

Alright, that’s all for now. I will update my notes as we go along with these books so come back and check on this post from time to time.

Take care,

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