Homeschool Math Curricula
If your child can read and do math, he can learn.
It’s really that simple. Science, Social Studies, all the rest are secondary to these basic subjects. And reading is easy. Unless your child has a learning disadvantage like moderate to severe dyslexia, you actually have to traumatize him to keep him from learning to read (ironically, this is why public schools have so many problems with illiteracy). Sure some methods work better than others for some students (which I likely will write about some time in the future), but even if all you do is read to your child every day and answer his questions when he asks, he will eventually learn to read.
Math, on the other hand, sometimes requires more. This is often true because the PARENT has been taught to be intimidated by math as for any other reason, but nonetheless, it IS true. Luckily for you, Literally DOZENS of companies and individuals have realized that they can make money off you because of this and have gone to great lengths to do so. This then leads to the problem of finding out who to give your money to so Johnny can be an engineer and support you when you retire.
I can help with that!
What follows is a list of curricula, their pluses and minuses. Most our family have used and and ALL have enough going for them that make them worth the cost of trying them out. Even if you don’t stick with your first choice, you should find enough useful parts to supplement your second choice with it in a rewarding way. Some of these focus on younger children, but all provide instruction at least through division, fractions and concepts at that level.
So, here’s the list.
This is essentially one step away from unschooling math. Family math is a book that offers activities, games and projects you can do at home with household objects to explore math concepts. It has no workbooks or tests. You learn by doing – which makes it great for a kinesthetic learner. The drawback is that if, as a parent, you are scared of math and worried that your child isn’t covering enough, you will only have a bunch of beans and buttons to point to when you want to show his progress. It takes a modicum of self confidence and trust in your child to go this route solely. However, it makes a wonderful enrichment tool for any other curriculum you may try.
This curriculum is based largely around Cuisenaire rods and other concrete visual models of numbers and groups. Its use of manipulatives over recipes (do a and b to get c – you’ll learn why that works later – maybe) encourages children to learn how to think mathematically – this is great for teaching problem solving skills and many gifted children thrive on it, but it can be scary when you realize your child is actually learning on his own and what he is learning may NOT be the way other people solve the same problem. Miquon is very often used in conjunction with Singapore Math.
This is based on the National Curriculum of Singapore – which consistently places at or near the top of world rankings in math scores. Singapore Math is designed to be balanced between drill and creative problem solving. It tends to progress faster than American curricula and in fact presumes an older first grader than is typical in American schools. Because of this, it again is a good curriculum to use for gifted children. Singapore Math sometimes spends less time drilling on a particular idea than a child needs, but the company produces a good number of different supplementary materials to compensate. In addition, it can be combined very nicely with Miquon Math to provide a more in-depth exploration of various topics.
This curriculum uses the A.L (Activities for Learning) abacus extensively in its program. If you don’t like switching between curricula and want a slightly more traditional approach to math without sacrificing opportunities for advanced learners to excel, consider this program. Our family used Miquon and Singapore for our oldest son, but used Right Start for our daughter. Our reasoning had nothing to do with quality – we are more than satisfied with our original choice – but rather with keeping our daughter from trying to compare her studies with his and then getting discouraged. She doesn’t understand why a two year age difference should mean she can’t do everything her brother is doing. Given that, if we had known about Right start from the beginning, we could easily have had our oldest working in that one instead of what he is now doing.
Probably the most popular homeschool Math curriculum. Saxon math is comprehensive, topic oriented, spiralling and technique intensive. A student who uses Saxon will definitely be able to come up with the right answers on a typical standardized math test. If it doesn’t drive him crazy first. Saxon is drill intensive and highly repetitive. If your child is adhd and/or gifted in math, he likely won’t be able to maintain interest in this style of math for long. Also, Saxon math has little to no focus on overall conceptual mathematics. It is arithmetic by recipe and, in my opinion, doesn’t prepare a child for exploration of higher math. Of course, most students don’t have any interest in higher math in the first place, so if what you want is a good grounding and a decent SAT score, this may very well be your curriculum.
This one focuses on foundations. It uses a wide variety of resources including DVD’s and counting blocks to teach its concepts. It is well suited for students struggling in math and even learning disabled children. I have never heard a parent who used this program talk bad about it. However, I personally have a problem with plugging a child into a tv to learn on a regular basis. Once in a while, sure, but the tv is NOT the primary teacher in this household. Outside of that, however, I have nothing against this program.
Mastery oriented curriculum. You start simply and explore a concept at deeper and deeper levels until you have it cold and then move on. It has a decent ratio of emphasis on concepts and computations and a nice balance of math facts to problem solving. We tried it in our family, but it just didn’t move fast enough for our oldest.
There are plenty of other curricula and resources out there. Some are, of course better than others. These are simply the ones I have the most experience with. My personal recommendation is either Right Start or a combination of Singapore Math and Miquon, but of course, your mileage may vary and I make no promises.