In our homeschool, it is a goal that each child will leave our school well prepared for furthering their education through college or a trade school, and to function as adults in whatever path the Lord leads them to take. When it comes to mathematics, we have had children who struggled, and some that have flourished in math. Whatever their temperament, after some bumps in the road, we came to a solution that seems to work well for us.
For our younger children, we start teaching the basics of mathematics using manipulatives that are logical and sound, but does not have too much writing. Since my children usually start math at around age four, we progress slowly or quickly as driven by the child, and we use Math-U-See. This program uses manipulative blocks and quick, engaging videos which are very helpful.
When they finish the curriculum through second grade, I give a Saxon placement test. If they are ready (and all have been) I switch to Saxon Math for 3rd grade level. For the younger children, I do not use the meeting strips or teacher’s books. I did not relish the thought of so much repetition for things which could be taught very quickly and reviewed as necessary.
Once they have reached middle school, I adjust the lessons based on the student’s abilities. If math is particularly slow or difficult, I may require only half of the problems in each lesson to be completed. After I grade the problems, they correct every mistake. I take time to cover anything they do not understand. Then they take the weekly tests.
For students who really struggle, do not hesitate to go backward and review lessons that are shaky before continuing to move forward. Likewise, if a student is very gifted in math, we have given the option to take the tests in the book, and instead of doing lessons, just skip to the test. If the student receives a 90% or higher, we can let the student move forward without completing all that lesson’s work.
For our next three children, we are proceeding in this same manner unless we see a difficulty arise we have not expected. This is the beauty of homeschooling. You can adjust each subject for each child and prayerfully consider the best solutions for each. We have been pleased with placement test scores using Saxon as their basis for math education, even for those for whom it was difficult.
Mistakes I Made
With my first daughter, I suspected something just was not right with her math abilities. I ignored it because her scores on her math papers were acceptable. When I noticed her inability to do mental math or to figure out measurements for food, I ignored the problems and thought it was probably just because she was talking or distracted. We learned later about a learning disability called dyscalculia, which affects learning and retaining math, much like dyslexia affects reading and writing. She required serious intervention. Through this experience, I learned to never ignore my own instincts with my children’s education.
I also put way too much emphasis on making sure they succeeded at one subject. There were many tears and many heated arguments over math for my first two daughters. I now realize each child is gifted or struggles in their own way. When one is stellar at language, often math may be a struggle. Even though I still expect them to go over missed problems, I try to keep it upbeat. If something is overwhelming, I seek another way for them to cover that subject.
What We Did Well
I look for opportunities to let them enjoy and thrive in the areas where they are strong, and let them know that if they struggle in certain subjects, it’s okay. I am not teaching for perfection. I am teaching for a working knowledge of the subject, so that once they choose an educational path or vocation, they can be further trained. I also decided to not let the area where they struggle become the dominant part of their school day. I try to keep those subjects in balance with the ones where they are working eagerly above average.
Finally, for all our graduates, we do a personal finance class that teaches the basics of budgeting and money management. We use Dave Ramsey’s program for either middle school or high school. We want our children to pursue their goals and to do it debt-free. This class also teaches the basics of tithing, giving, saving and investing. We consider this knowledge important for all of them, whether they choose to pursue more education or not.
As a mother of six, and after 18 years of homeschooling, I share the following with every mom who asks my advice. My primary homeschool goal is that each child who graduates knows the Lord and can function as adults in whatever capacity they are able. This means they have the education to pursue college if the Lord leads them. They should also have the basic skills to run a household, maintain a home, and take care of general clerical duties required for adult life.
Don’t let math, or any other subject take precedence over your other goals. Tears, fights, and drama do not have to be a normal part of your children’s education. Also, be flexible and willing to adjust, subtract, and add to any curriculum you use. You are their educator and can make that judgment call. However, neither should you shrink from helping your children to learn to do difficult things, even to the point of struggling.
Lead by example, and help them keep pressing forward to obtain the skills and character needed for adult life.
Copyright 2018, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.
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