I've used the Fractions, Decimals and Percents, Pre-Algebra I with Biology, Beginning Algebra, and Advanced Algebra. My oldest is half way through Geometry and my second child will start Pre-Algebra II with Economics next week.
I haven't used, nor seen in person, the younger levels. However, I have compared the upper levels to Saxon Algebra I and II and to my college Algebra course, and Life of Fred more than stands on its own. Life of Fred Beginning Algebra has more in common with Saxon Algebra II than I, and Life of Fred Advanced Algebra was comparable to my college Algebra class, and in fact covered a few things more.
The issue with Life of Fred comes into play with the author's philosophies of learning math and homeschooling. His philosophy on homeschooling is that we, homeschoolers, are putting our children at a disadvantage if we give them any less than an A in a high school course because of how public schools grade and such. Because of this there are no tests, and even the "Cities" occasionally have teaching material in the solutions and can't be used as tests. The approach is simply keep at it until you master it and get record an A. This "give an A" without tests, without grading homework, just when they know the material, or repeating a chapter if they don't have it, well that is hard for some parents to feel comfortable with.
Second, the author's philosophy of how students best master material is kind of a shock to those not expecting. He feels that for a student to best “own” something that they need to wrestle or struggle with it first. He doesn’t spoon feed the information to the student, but rather explains it plain enough but then asks the students to use that information in ways he hasn’t explained. This is probably a double surprise when it comes to Life of Fred, because the story line of the books is so light hearted and silly that anyone just glancing over the books assumes that the math is equally light and “supplemental”. The books aren’t that thick, and there aren’t that many problems to do even with the Companion books, but even so it took my very mathy son a year and a half to do Beginning Algebra and a year to do Advanced Algebra (this was before the Zillions of Algebra Problems book came out too).
A saving grace for this wrestle to learn philosophy is that the author is so readily available by email. We have had to email a couple of times for help and he has always replied within just a few hours (and both times the answer was so obvious, once pointed out to us, that it was a “duh” moment).
All that to say I LOVE Life of Fred and, at the high levels at least, find it to be more than comprehensive enough to serve as a student’s sole math. BUT I do not think it is a good match for everyone. If it helps to discuss in terms of Cathy Duffy’s learning styles, my oldest is a blend of Wiggly Willy, Perfect Paula, and Competent Carl (he shares qualities of all 3 equally). Life of Fred took some time for him to get used to that method of learning, but it has been worth it and he plans to continue with it through Calculus, at least. I think that is the reason that we have had success with it even though it was such a struggle through places; he, that is my son, chose to use Life of Fred. I picked 3 or 4 Algebra programs that I felt I could live with, and I allowed him to choose which he wanted to do. When we struggled so greatly with the Beginning Algebra book, I offered him the chance to use something else for Algebra II and Geometry and he still wanted to stay with Life of Fred.
But, my second child, my daughter Lily, won’t be using Life of Fred for Algebra and above. She has done the Fractions, Decimals and Percents, and Pre-Algebra I with Biology books, and I do plan to have her continue with the Pre-Algebra II with Economics book, but she already knows that she does not want to continue with it for Algebra and above. Lily is more in line with the Perfect Paula learning style than any other.
Anyway, while I won’t be using Life of Fred with my second child for high school math, I am glad that I will have the books available as references. Some of the explanations in them are absolute gems. His method of factoring polynomials is worth the price of the Beginning Algebra book alone. So, for my second child, the Life of Fred books will be supplements, although in the respect that I plan to use them here and there as we find need, but it would be too much for her to work them completely while also doing another curriculum completely.
Why rain as ticker? Because where I live rain is something to rejoice in.
"Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other." ~Walter Elliot
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