A month ago we were summering in Richmond Upon Thames, London and my two boys were spending a lot of time with the two boys downstairs. As they discussed the finer points of Pokemon Go in the garden below my window, I overheard the conversation below. This is a post about how we, as homeschoolers, learned times tables.
” You don’t go to school?”
“What’s six eights ?”
Boo replied ” I don’t know, but I know what six sixes are.”
Not a bad answer, but I wished I’d primed him.
We Didn’t Want to Memorise Times Tables
The correct answer would be something along the lines of, “As homeschoolers we are not required to memorise times tables like a parrot to regurgitate on cue with zero thought process. Just give me a second and I’ll work it out for you if you don’t know. Don’t you have a calculator on that phone if you’re stuck?”
And really, why do people ask homeschooling kids such dumb questions? A hairdresser once asked my son who the Queen of England was. Really? We’re British, she’s the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Not England. I said nothing just inwardly judged her. But back to homeschooling times tables.
Times tables are actually pretty simple if you do the maths rather than memorising them. I was forced into memorisation in school and never understood the things. They were something you had to produce on command, not think about and we all just accepted that.
From 3 or 4 years old we had to stand in class and chant. I didn’t know why. I just knew I had to memorise this song. That is not learning. It is not understanding
I’ve never really known my times tables nor needed them, despite being one of those people we were told absolutely needed to be proficient in maths. I was a professional scientist and I have a BSc in science. I’ve never needed to know what seven eights is in my entire life.
Let’s move forward a month. Little Boo and I have been plodding through this homeschool workbook, little by little. We just finished it and he now knows enough of the times tables to satisfy anyone because he understands the stupid things. I now know them better than I ever have in any point in my life too. And I finally understand them.
How We Learned Times Tables as Homeschoolers
This is the book we’ve used.
( affiliate link, it costs you nothing, we make a tiny commission.)
You just need to give the kids the tools to work them out.
2x is easy, doubles.
3x also easy, triples, just add it in your head.
4x is double doubles.
5x is half of what 10x would be.
9x is easy, each answer starts with a digit one less than the factor your multiplying by 9. The 2 digits add up to 9. Or subtract from 10x. Simple.
10x is easy, add a zero.
11x is super easy.
12x involves mental gymnastics with 6s or 10x plus 2x.
It’s only really 6,7 and 8 that gets a bit tricky. But if you know what 5x ,9x and 10x is and most kids remember that 6×6=36, it’s easy to count up or down in moments.
So we’re done, that’s times tables in the bag with no memorisation. He started on them at 10 years old and was done with them one month later.
Funny isn’t it, that the things schools push, like spelling lists or any sort of repetitive memorisation, are totally not necessary when kids get their education outside of institutions and at the age that suits them, not the system.
So we’re done now, off to Thailand for 6 weeks because travel is the best education. Schools out!
How do you handle times tables? Do you have to write a maths report or curriculum? Obviously there is no one right way to homeschool and different methods work for different kids. I can only tell you how my kids learned their times tables as homeschoolers and thankfully it worked.
I can also tell you that those ” Learn Your Times Tables To Music” CDs that we used to play in the car did not work at all. They made homeschooling suck. They were boring, awful and nap-inducing. Make homeschooling easier on everyone by keeping it fun for all involved. Scratch those CDs off your homeschool resources list!
UPDATE: Fast forward a couple of years to the high school years, homeschooling a 12 year old and young teen. Both kids are doing Khan Academy maths, neither have ever memorised times tables like a performing parrot. By assimilation and alchemy,they know a lot of the answers to multiplication questions, instantly. Both have just completed a full year of Khan maths in 2 weeks and found it easy. If they meet maths head on when they are older, it’s a lot easier for them than trying to force an immature brain to deal with it. And that’s our proven results, not supposition. We’re very pleased with how maths is going round here.