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Full disclosure: math is not, nor has it ever been, my favorite subject. I hated it when I was a student, and I hate teaching it. So when it came to finding a math curriculum to use when we began homeschooling, I just picked one that came recommended by several seasoned homeschool moms. And then I was given a really bad piece of advice by a well-intentioned mom: “You should never switch math curricula. If you do, your child will suffer for it.”
So I stuck with a curriculum that we all truly dispised.
Practically every day involved tears, frustration, and anger. If I could go back and change anything, it would be those early years of math horror.
Then I attended my first homeschool convention and heard some wise parents speaking about curriculum, learning styles, teaching styles, and why it’s totally okay to change what isn’t working. What? I can change stuff? Even math?
You might laugh at my naivete, but I had very little confidence in my teaching back then, so this was a bombshell for me.
At that convention, there was a huge used book vendor, and I stumbled across some math books that looked pretty good. I bought them, came home, literally threw away the old math books, and we spent the rest of the year significantly less stressed over arithmatic.
It’s been more than a decade since that convention, and in the intervening years we have switched math curricula a few times. And lived to tell the tale. I’ve certainly learned a few lessons of my own when it comes to math, and I felt like I should share them with you.
One: There is no perfect, or even best, math curriculum.
Perfect curriculum is a unicorn. It simply doesn’t exist. There is only what works best for you. So it’s okay to try a few until you find something you and your child like. Ask some friends, do some research, but it all comes down to personal preference. For us, Saxon math nearly broke our hearts. It was dull, there were too many problems to work on, and we found the spiral approach too repetative. But I know families who love Saxon.
What we finally settled on was Teaching Textbooks, which is a perfect fit for my kids’ learning style and and even better fit for this mom’s teaching style.
I love that once my kids get to a level I can no longer comfortably teach, they can do their lessons via computer instruction. I also love that I don’t have to grade anything because the disembodied instructor does it for me. That’s a win all day long.
I have friends who love Life of Fred because it makes math into a funny story. I tried it, but found that because I’m not naturally math inclined, there was not enough instruction for my kids. Plus, did I mention how much I hate grading math problems?
Two: Figure out your child’s learning style.
Does your son naturally understand math equations? Does your daughter easily breeze through a math chapter? Or does your child struggle to memorize math facts? ‘
Many math programs use the spriral method. That means that each lesson reviews older concepts and introduces one new concept for practice. That works for many kids, but some kids need more or less review. If your child is a math whiz, she probably will hate lessons that spend a lot of time on review.
What about manipulatives?
For some kids, using Legos, colored tiles, or rods are essential to understanding math concepts. Other kids are fine memorizing forumulas they read in a textbook. Trying different approaches can be very illuminating. And remember, what works for one child might be unhelpful for his sibling. The beauty of homeschooling is that you can customize your instruction to best help your child learn effectively.
Three: Figure out your teaching style.
Do you love math? Then a bare bones curriculum, like Life of Fred might work well for you because you can fill in any additional instruction your child requires.
Do you hate math with the white hot passion of a thousand burning suns? Been there, done that. Then you might be more comfortable with a curriculum that does the teaching for you. Teaching Textbooks changed our entire homeschool atmosphere. When I found a program that could do the teaching and grading for me, I danced a jig around the school room. Happily, I did not film it for you.
Listen, if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. So it’s imperative that you find a math program you can work well with.
Four: Take all advice with a large helping of salt.
Trust no one when they tell you what to use. Okay, maybe trust other moms a little. After all, they’ve been there too. I actually Googled the phrase, ‘Best Homeschool Math’ and got 4.5 million results. So that’s helpful.
Seriously, take your time, read reviews. ask around, And then start simple. Buy stuff used so that if you hate it you won’t have wasted your kids’ college fund. I love shopping for all my curriculum on Ebay because I can find good deals there.
Five: Quit Worrying.
Many of us have the fear of Not Doing Enough hanging over our homeschooling heads. Will my kid get the teaching he deserves? Will my daughter keep up? Can my kids get into college? What if perfect strangers start quizzing them on their math facts at the grocery store?
Moms, stop with the worry already. You chose homeschooling because it felt like the right fit for your family. The God who loves you gave you your kids. He called you to homeschool them. He will equip you for the task. That’s all you need to remember. Yes, pray for wisdom. Pray for your kids. Set your concerns before the Lord. But don’t borrow tomorrow’s troubles. If your kids want to go to college, they’ll go to college. If they struggle in math, you’ll help them. If you can’t help them, you’ll find someone who can. You don’t need to carry the burden of 13 years of education on your shoulders. Solve today’s problems and let tomorrow take care of itself.
You can do this, mom. Math can feel scary for many of us, but there are great programs out there to help us help our kids learn.
What is YOUR favorite math curriculum?
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