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Choosing a Homeschool Math Curriculum

Homeschool mathOne question Karen and I get asked quite often is, “What do you think about (insert name here) math curriculum?”

It’s an interesting question for two reasons: first, Charlotte Mason didn’t specify exactly how she taught all the levels of math, nor did she endorse a specific curriculum; second, we haven’t used all of the math programs out there.

So rather than try to give an opinion on each specific curriculum, Karen and I got together and brainstormed a list of what we think makes a good math curriculum. Charlotte gave some great principles to use in teaching math, so we’ve incorporated those principles in our list.

Components of a Good CM Homeschool Math Curriculum

  • It introduces the child to things before symbols.

    The child needs to see the concepts in action before putting them on paper with mathematical formulas and equations.

  • The curriculum writer or teacher/parent has a strong grasp of math.

    Math, of all subjects, is heavily dependent on the teacher—whether that teacher is the parent or the curriculum writer. Referring to mathematics, Charlotte said, “There is no one subject in which good teaching effects more, as there is none in which slovenly teaching has more mischievous results” (Vol. 1, p. 254). If your grasp of math is not as strong as you would like it to be, make sure the curriculum you use was written by a strong math teacher.

  • It is conducive to use in short lessons.

    It might be written specifically that way or can be easily modified that way.

  • It gives you the ability to move at each child’s pace.

    Use a curriculum that does not hold a child back or push a child ahead before he’s ready.

  • It emphasizes mastery of a concept.

    Math must be learned well at each stage or the child will be lost in the next stage.

  • It gives lots of practice with new concepts.

    The child should work with a new concept enough that he or she finds the function becoming second nature.

  • It should contain sufficient review.

    A “sufficient” review doesn’t have to be long and drawn out. A good review could involve just enough problems to keep the child’s math skills fresh. Reviews can also let you know if the child didn’t really learn a concept the first time through and needs a refresher before moving on to the next concept. (Some moms like to use our Your Business Math series for review during the summer months. Of course, they don’t tell the children that it’s review; they just let them choose their own pet store, sports store, or book store kits and have fun!)

  • It should provide a comprehensive, accurate answer key.

    This component is crucial for busy homeschool moms.

We hope this information will be helpful to you as you evaluate all the possibilities and make plans for your child’s math studies.

SCM Southern Tour in October

Thanks to all of you who have contacted us about our possibly stopping by while we’re traveling to Texas in October. If you have sent us a message but haven’t heard back, please contact us again. We’ve replied to everyone who contacted us, but a couple of the messages we received contained incorrect e-mail addresses, so our replies to you bounced back. We’d love to get in touch with you if we can.

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7 Responses to “Choosing a Homeschool Math Curriculum”

  1. Cindy July 3, 2009 at 1:23 pm #

    I am a homeschool graduate who went to college, earned a degree in mathematics, and who now homeschools my daughter as well as tutoring local homeschoolers in higher level mathematics.

    I think your list of requirements is very good. There are plenty of math programs that fall within the criteria you have put forth. However, as I’ve read CM’s original series, I believe that there is not enough emphasis placed on the importance of the teacher today as Charlotte Mason placed on it in her writings. The choice of curriculum is less important than who is teaching it. Even curriculum written by a good teacher is insufficient when facilitated by a parent who is uncomfortable or unknowledgeable about mathematics.

    Just as Charlotte Mason thought that the best way to learn a language was from a native speaker, she seemed to believe that the best way to learn mathematics was from a teacher. My own personal experience and my experiences with teaching homeschool students confirms this. I think we need to start focusing less on the books and start looking for people who are able and qualified to teach our children in this area, if we are not educated or confident in this area ourselves.

  2. Sandi July 21, 2009 at 8:50 am #

    Agreed! I think that if we’re not comfortable teaching math or any other subject, we need to find tutors who can more ably teach the subject. We want our children to have a quality education not to move forward with little confidence.

  3. Kelley September 13, 2012 at 4:36 pm #

    I got through high-school, but not great at Math. I used Saxon with both my 11 yr. old and 13 yr. old they have done soo very well. I think even if the person helping with it doesn’t well the kids can succeed. Even think of the things that kids can teach themselves. It’s amazing.

    But my question is about Math. I started school with my 8 yr. old later than I did with my older kids because he wasn’t ready. He still can’t form some letters. Last yr. I used Saxon, and this year when I went to use it again I noticed that 3/4 of the book is a repeat from last yr like o clock is still being taught this year and not moved on to 1:30 etc.. Things like count from 72 to 47 I see as frustrating to him. He is totally hands-on. I thought to use the Saxon Book more as a guide with hands-on stuff. But I don’t want to miss him either if I just do things with him like when I should introduce multiplication tables etc.. What would your suggestions be? He’s 8 and is still learning the clock, adding subtracting..etc The frustrating thing is I still have all the books, so I really don’t want to change a curriculum yet again.

    • Sonya Shafer September 15, 2012 at 9:42 am #

      Many math programs approach learning as a spiral: they introduce a concept, later do it again a little more, then later a little more, etc. It sounds like all the repetition in the book you mentioned may be that type of approach.

      I like your idea of using the textbook as a guide to doing hands-on math. Make the book your servant, not your master. And your instinct is right not to push your son. Much of math builds on itself. He will need to thoroughly understand some simpler concepts before moving on to others, or he will get lost. For example, he will need to thoroughly understand and be comfortable with addition before you introduce multiplication.

      Next week a new book will be available that will be full of these ideas for when and how to introduce math concepts in a hands-on Charlotte Mason way. I encourage you to download the sample of Mathematics: An Instrument for Living Teaching when it is published next week and see if the ideas in it will help you teach your son in a way that he learns best.

      • Kelley September 15, 2012 at 9:33 pm #

        Thank-you so much! I will keep an eye out for the free sample.

        • Kelley October 15, 2012 at 12:05 am #

          So I finally took a look at the sample. How is the book laid out? The sample looks great! My question is am I going to be left on my own so to speak, or will there be direction so I know what I am doing. Are there worksheets to do..or hands-on? I am just worried that I’ll be lost, but it does look good!!! Thanks!!!

          • Sonya Shafer October 15, 2012 at 11:43 am #

            The book rest of the book is laid out like the sample, Kelly. It is a handbook to show you how Charlotte Mason taught math and to give you some ideas to use to either supplement your current curriculum or design your own. There are some hands-on activities described in the book that you can implement or tweak as desired.