By contributing writer Colleen
When you have kids that just won’t stop moving in your homeschool, subjects like math can be a huge challenge. Even if a wiggly child is good at math, that subject presents unique challenges that are hard to overcome.
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- Sequential – Each lesson builds upon the last. A child (even a bright child) needs to do it mostly in order to lay a good foundation for higher levels of math. If he skips around too much, he’ll struggle in math later.
- Repetitive – Math takes practice. While not all children need as many repetitions as others in order to master concepts, each kiddo needs some practice to become a strong mathematician.
- Paper and Pencil – Because math is a skill to be mastered, most kids need to actually do the problems on paper in order to cement them in their minds. Active kids aren’t always the biggest fans of this type of work.
- Overwhelming – Let’s face it, math can be overwhelming to kids. There is always something new to learn, and it seems like it never ends.
All of these issues add up to fights in many homeschools. I know that my son, who is very gifted, struggles whenever it’s time to pull out the math book. He doesn’t struggle because math is challenging. He struggles because the nature of math is tough for him. But math has to happen. So what should we do as homeschool parents?
Change It Up
If a curriculum isn’t working, there is no law that says you have to stick to it. Try something different. There are computer-based programs, textbooks with lots of repetition, and workbooks that favor more of a spiral approach (circling topics back around and around until a child gets it).
Try a few different things to see which method works with your child’s learning style and personality. Borrow a few different programs from local homeschool friends, if possible, to try different things out. Remember, your only limit is yourself.
Homeschooling is a chance to see what works best and go with it. There is no one size fits all method of learning.
Get Your Kids Moving
If your kids don’t like to sit still, try to get them moving. In desperation one year, I took scissors to my son’s workbook pages and cut apart his math workbook. I spread the small chunks of paper throughout the house, told him how many pieces he had to find, and let him go on a math scavenger hunt to do his work.
I didn’t modify the work in any way. I still had him do all the problems on the page, but he didn’t feel as overwhelmed because those assignments were spread all over the house in small bite-sized pieces, and he was able to move between each segment. It was an adventure that he loved, and the complaining ceased.
Modify the Curriculum
There is no rule that says your child must do every problem in a lesson. If there are a lot of repeated concepts and your child has clearly demonstrated to you that he knows that skill well, don’t make him practice any more. Allow him to move on.
It’s easy to become a slave to the curriculum, but really, it doesn’t do your child (or you) any good. Make the program work for you; don’t become a slave to it. If your child knows what he or she is doing, then let him be done with that concept. Otherwise homeschooling isn’t any different than having him be in school.
Above all, relax. It’s math. Yes, it’s important that your child knows how to manage his money, count, and calculate, but it’s more important that your child is confident, well-adjusted, and sure of himself. If the math you’re doing isn’t working, and it’s weighing you all down, step back, reevaluate, and try something else.
Above all, enjoy having your kids home with you, and work together to figure out a plan that works. It’s your turn. What simple ideas do you have for helping your kids through their math issues?
I like your article especially the Modify the Curriculum section. However, I would suggest a word of caution to anyone who is considering switching a math curriculum mid year. I think there is a growing group of homeschoolers that think if they just find the perfect curriculum than everything will be easy. They switch from curriculum to curriculum to curriculum. Sometimes some subjects are just hard and we need to keep on plugging away at them. Math tends to be one of these subjects for many. It is even more difficult for the child if their curriculum is frequently switched. Unless there are major flaws with a curriculum, I would suggest not switching mid year, and even at that, no more often than once every 4 years.