April 16, 2010

Home School-Higher Math

As I am working my way through these posts on home school, I had a girl friend email some questions dealing with math.  After sending my email reply, I thought to myself, "Gee, that would have been a good post for my home school series."  So here it is.  Commonly asked questions regarding higher math in the home school.  I have altered my response a little to better suit this forum.

Hi Kathleen:  Hope you all are doing well.  If you don’t mind, I would like to “pick your brain” for a moment on math.  What math did Kaitlin do throughout high school? Are you taking your girls through algebra, geometry, etc.? What’s your opinion on going through the higher maths? Do they really need them?  Josh is stuck in algebra (and he is in 11th grade), and Bethany is supposed to begin 9th grade in the fall … she struggles with pre-algebra now.   Any input would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks. Katie

Hi, Katie.

I’d be glad to answer your questions! Math was a challenge for us when we began our home school journey. The first five years we used five different math curriculum ranging from the most popular Saxon, through Abeka, Rod and Staff and a few others. Kaitlin did not enjoy math and I, not being a strong math student, was at a loss to help her understand it. I finally settled on Math-U-See which I can not say enough good things about. Our math went from daily tears to one of our favorite subjects.

It is a pricey curriculum, but worth every penny. Except for the student workbooks, you can often find materials used on Ebay. Perhaps, if you ask around there is someone you can borrow materials from and then you will only need to purchase the student workbooks.  It is a good idea to peruse someone else's materials or visit a home school show to see if it is something that would work for your student.   They have a website that you can check out, too.

When it comes to school, math included, I try to keep the focus on real life skills. The rest is a waste, in my opinion. Allen and I do not really feel college is the place for our girls and so in that regard they have no need for higher math, either. For our boys, and if the girls should be interested in furthering their education, we would require two years of community college before we would consider a four year college. In which case, they will have to take the higher maths at that time, anyway. Therefore, unless they have an interest in it, it seems a waste of time and effort to pour energy into it.

For Kaitlin, she was ready to move on to other things and stopped math when she got to Algebra. She did complete an accredited High school program online and passed their exams in Algebra and geometry, so she must have picked up enough along the way to be on level with the average high school student. But I wouldn’t have been worried if she wasn't. Brianna is very into math and chose to continue on. She is doing Algebra now, and loving it. And is already looking forward to calculus and such. Yuck!

For the boys, who will likely be attending college locally or online, higher math will probably be in their high school curriculum, but we really take it year by year, child by child and try to let the Lord be our guide.

As for your pre-algebra and algebra issues. Perhaps, if they tried Steve Demme’s approach it could give them a boost past the areas where they are stuck?  Or some other teacher or program.  Everyone teaches things differently and if one is not working sometimes a fresh approach is the key.  Every student learns things differently and you never know which way will be right for your student until you try.  

Warning to home school moms and up and coming home school moms.  In our need to be thrifty and wise with our household/home school budgets, we moms/teachers sometimes get CHEAP.  There is a great difference.  I see moms sabotage their home school experience by trying to make all their children fit into the same mold because they already paid for this book.  You must be willing to surrender the cost of what you have sometimes in order to find the right thing for your student.

What is the point of continuing on in misery with a book you already have and ending up with a student who hates this subject or that.  I have often found, in my own home school, that when my children didn't like a particular subject, what they were really saying is they needed a new approach.  I can say with one hundred percent certainty that there is no subject my children do not enjoy.  But there have been times that I had to look outside of our existing programs to find something that caught their interest.  I will talk more about this when I get to History.  But remember that learning should be a fun enjoyable time for you and your student.  It should be a time of tying heart strings.  If it is not, then you have missed the boat.

In summary… if Bethany is not concerned with going further in math and is struggling in Pre-A, I would get her some consumer math to work on so she knows important things like keeping a budget, balancing a checkbook and such. That is what a young lady will need when she marries. If, at some point later, she decides she is interested in higher math, you can always come back to it.

Really, even though it is more likely that Joshua will need to know it for college, it is not the worse thing in the world for him to skip it and do consumer or stewardship math. When, if indeed, he decides to head to college, he will be more focused on it and can get it then. Almost every incoming college student has to take it in the core curriculum anyway. If you are really set on him getting through it, then you do have options, like I mentioned such as tutoring and trying a new curriculum.

{For those who are wondering about tutoring, I deleted that from my original email because it was on a more local and personal level.  But, if your student needs a little more help than you feel able to give, seek out home school students who are ahead of your student.  They are a wealth of knowledge!  Most of them are more than delighted to help their friends in difficult subjects.  Plus, the positive peer pressure may help motivate your student along in their struggle.} 


  1. I am enjoying your homeschool advice "series" - thank you for being willing to share!
    I also wanted to say that as I was admiring again your new blog look and wishing I had a child that understood HTML, I noticed a button for your blog design! I headed over to By The Way Blog Design and requested a makeover!

  2. Hey, what a great idea Mom!!

    I could put in a word coming from the student point of view...

    I LOVE math-u-see!! It makes math actually make sense!!!