Homeschool math… I have to admit, just the thought once made me feel a twinge of queasiness.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love school. Like, absolutely love it. I’m the kid who was always counting down the days until the new school year. I love learning new things, love the smell of school supplies, and actually find lectures fascinating.
BUT, math and I are not friends.
Sometimes I think I would rather jump in a lake of fire than open a math book. Ok, maybe not quite that drastic. But clearly safe to say I struggle with math. It’s never been my strength. I did graduate (and actually got A’s even in math), but not without a river of tears and a mountain of stress to go along with it.
As you can imagine, I became very nervous about teaching math in my homeschool. It’s true. I still would rather get a root canal than figure out the % of a fraction. But as my kids grew and I actually tried teaching math, I have found math to be far less threatening than I expected.
Let me share some of my favorite solutions for teaching homeschool math (even if you aren’t friends with the subject).
Why on earth do we have to learn math?
When you are tackling a subject you don’t enjoy, it’s super helpful to understand why it’s necessary for your educational well-being and hopefully for your development as a person, right? Math has traditionally been one of those subjects we can’t put our finger on. Why in the world do we need to know and understand it?
It’s hard for us to understand why we need algebra in the grocery store or to balance our checkbook. I spent years wondering the same thing until I began to understand that math, like every other subject, gives us the knowledge to understand the true awesomeness of God.
For a Christian, the purpose of math is to better help us to behold the incredible glory of God through a more exact understanding of creation and the world around us.
Math helps us understand the miracle of it all by helping us better define and explain it. Larry Zimmerman with Answers in Genesis says it like this, “One cannot see Christ physically, but one is able to physically view evidences of His power and glory in the creation, the basis of which is mathematics.”
If you are geeky like me and want to read more about that, read this article.
I love telling my kids this truth. After all, the Bible tells us to work as if we are working for the Lord (which includes school) and it tells us to obey our parents. But knowing that the subjects we are learning help us better know God, understand our faith, and defend it to others is FAR more motivating than the first two.
Math mastery is about basics.
There are probably 100 great math curriculum options out there. But if you skip to that, you’ll miss the point. Math is a subject systematically built on tiny blocks of information. If you miss the foundation, the top will crumble. Period. Sadly, this is why so many kids struggle in math.
Take the time to lay the foundation and be sure you get a math curriculum that makes this the focus of elementary school. The two skills we focus on are skip counting and basic addition/subtraction facts.
We start skip counting as early as possible with fun jingles and songs. My personal favorite is the skip counting songs written by Classical Conversations. You can get them in this app. It’s not free, but it’s no more expensive than a CD and you can still play it in the car. You can get a physical CD from them directly here or on Amazon. I found many skip counting CDs on Apple Music with a quick search. Just make sure you stick with one and go all the way to skip counting by 15’s. Don’t stop at 2’s and 5’s.
My older kids were vigilant with learning skip counting and as a result, learning multiplication was easy. My son wasn’t as vigilant (ok, mom wasn’t on the ball) and we quickly realized multiplication was a much bigger struggle until we went back and did it right. Laying the foundation here is key!
For addition/subtraction math facts, daily practice is required. Be careful because most math curriculums do not cover this in-depth enough. They move on to other topics and kids are lost. Don’t let that happen. Focus here EVEN if nothing else gets done. Remember, math is a cycle and the same concepts are taught year after year. They just go a bit more in-depth as kids get older. If you focus on getting the basic facts very strong, the other stuff will be simple to pick up on.
We use Xtramath for daily fact practice. I’ve used so many different things, but this one wins every time because each child has a login and is able to practice the exact facts he/she is struggling with. The website is smart and that makes mastery much easier. Oh, and it’s totally FREE!
When you get stuck in homeschool math
The place most people get stuck in math is when they can’t figure out how to do a problem the way the book is teaching. They quickly think it’s too hard or they simply are unable to understand. What you need to know is… there is ALWAYS another way to think about it! Put the book down and find another way. This goes for basic facts like 1+5 as much as for difficult algebra problems.
When your kids are little, look up ways to teach simple addition. Pinterest is a great resource for this. You’ll find many resources showing you a different way to help your kids understand.
As they get older, YouTube the specific task (i.e. how to divide fractions). We find Khan Academy to be very helpful at getting us outside of the one way we were taught and helping us actually grasp the concept. Just type the topic in the search bar of YouTube and look for answers from them.
Curriculum for teaching homeschool math
We are rather simple with our math curriculum. It’s easy to fret and over-think things. Don’t give in to that. Stay simple and use what works for your family.
We have loved using CLE for math in the early years. It’s great at building a strong foundation and helping kids with math facts. It’s also inexpensive, which is a plus. The lessons are laid out to teach in an independent format, which is also high on my list of priorities.
It’s not colorful and “fun” according to some, but I’ll be honest, my kids have never once noticed or complained about that. Color in math doesn’t seem to make it any better or worse. (Haha)
Once they are old enough, my kids always want to transition into Teaching Textbooks. They love that the computer teaches the lesson for them and that there aren’t 500 problems to answer when the lesson is finished.
As mom, I love the instant grading feature. This makes my homeschool day so much easier. I also love that my kids are getting immediate feedback when a problem is incorrect. So often students do the whole page wrong only to learn they have to start over again. Teaching Textbooks doesn’t allow that to happen.
We sometimes use Khan Academy and YouTube videos as a supplement to help with things we don’t understand, as mentioned above. Looking at it in a different light is always helpful.
One final thought: If math really is more than you can handle as a homeschool parent, rest assured you can always outsource it to a co-op or online class. Sometimes taking the subject outside of your realm is good for your student and your relationship!