How many hours does it take?
He sat at the table all morning.
When I checked on him, my son still hadn’t finished his math lesson.
This scene replayed multiple times....
Much later—after he’d graduated homeschool—he confessed the reason why his math lessons took so long.
He was daydreaming.
To be precise, he was mentally replaying episodes of his favorite movies.
That’s not quite what I had in mind when we worked on developing his memory skills.
Before I continue, I must confess that math and science are not my strong suit.
But I did homeschool my two sons K-12, so I made some discoveries related to teaching homeschool math that might (or might not) be helpful.
Here they are …
#1 - Math concepts require review.
I once heard a warning about writing that applies equally to math:
“Leave math for a day, and it will leave you for two.”
Break from math lessons for the weekend and the math concepts your students worked on through the week and had mastered by Friday may be forgotten by Monday.
Break from math lessons or the summer … and your students may need to spend the first semester relearning what they forgot from the previous semester.
Knowing this in advance can help you make informed choices and alleviate frustration. You might even consider having your students continue working on math lessons through the summer at a slower pace.
#2 - It's okay to ask for help.
High level math can be intense.
My dear friend and homeschool mentor spent the last year of her twins’ homeschool journey working out calculus problems for up to six hours each day so she could evaluate their work. But she enjoys math.
- There are some subjects we can easily teach simply because we are thinking adults.
- There are other subjects we teach by learning beside our students. (This is one of the great rewards of homeschooling.)
- And … there are other subjects we may decide to delegate to an instructor of our choice—and there’s no shame in doing so.
If you want to tackle math problems alongside your children, there are benefits to be gained. However, in our house, math was primarily an independent-study subject.
As the complexity of my sons' math lessons increased, I offered to hire a tutor. But my oldest son declined.
He preferred to work through the problems himself. (And he was happy to “tutor” his younger brother whenever he needed help.)
Which brings me to my last tip…
#3 - Remember your goal.
Math was a means of helping my sons develop discipline, “mental muscles,” and character.
After grading their papers for a time, I realized that it made more sense for my sons to grade their own work. Doing so helped them identify any errors in their understanding and allowed them to immediately rework problems until they grasped the solutions.
They graded with integrity.
(Of course, there was less temptation to do otherwise because we didn’t emphasize grades—we emphasized learning.)
You may have a different goal for math lessons in your homeschool. If you do, then your process may be quite different from ours.
Why math is hard
Math requires focused and sustained concentration. That’s one of the reasons it can be a difficult subject. But that’s also one of the reasons it can be so beneficial.
It teaches mental discipline that can help a student excel in other subjects.
But don’t be intimidated. As we have discussed here, there are a variety of effective ways to tackle the challenges of teaching math.