What is the Best Homeschool Math Curriculum
Are you looking for the best homeschool math curriculum?
Did you know that there isn’t really such a thing as Charlotte Mason Maths? She didn’t have much to say on the topic.
Her main comment was:
Mathematics depends upon the teacher rather than the textbook and few topics are worse taught; chiefly because teachers seldom have time to give inspiring ideas…which should quicken the imagination. How living would Geometry become in the light of the discoveries of Euclid as he made them!” Philosophy of Education p.233
So she encourages us to be good teachers and give inspiring ideas however it’s still OK to use a textbook as well.
Living books can be used for homeschool maths to encourage your child to see maths in everyday life. Practical lessons are also very beneficial.
My Homeschool Maths Lessons – Things I Wish I’d Known
Math is a core topic to teach to children. It is easy to test as there is a clear right and wrong answer. Some children are geniuses and they will rip through the textbooks quickly and effortlessly. I’ve had one of those (but I take no credit for it as it came naturally to him). My others have needed much more instruction.
I have always used textbooks for my children’s homeschool maths lessons. I’ve also supplemented their maths lessons with maths games, cooking activities, measuring and money counting. You can also use good living maths books for reading.
There are many opinions on how to teach maths and it’s not my specialty. I don’t want to sway you toward a particular maths program as I have jumped around a lot myself in my 18 years of teaching homeschool maths. You will need to research how you want to teach this topic.
Homeschool maths was a subject where I often felt a little ‘lost at sea’. I wasn’t bad at maths in school but at 40 years old my maths’ knowledge was rusty.
I did what I thought would work but I relied heavily on textbooks and didn’t take the time to learn the best way of teaching homeschool math. Through trial and error, I found a system that worked. But it would have been a lot easier if I could have avoided some of the mistakes I made.
Let me share with you a few things I wish I’d known when I started teaching homeschool maths.
Charlotte Mason Math Uses Short Lessons
Charlotte Mason maths lessons are meant to be kept short and for young children. In the early years keep the lessons short around 10 to 20 minutes. Have children apply careful attention to their lessons.
Don’t overload your child with a range of different concepts in one lesson.
Teach Concrete Before Abstract
When I started teaching formal homeschool maths to my first child I went straight to textbooks. I didn’t really understand the value of teaching math concepts in a concrete way before I taught them in an abstract way.
I should have used manipulatives more. What are they? Objects used to teach mathematical concepts such as counters, shape blocks, and base ten blocks are called manipulatives.
Charlotte Mason wrote this about teaching maths:
“The next point is to demonstrate everything demonstrable. The child may learn the multiplication table and do a subtraction sum without any insight into the rationale of either. He may even become a good arithmetician, applying rules aptly, without seeing the reason of them; but arithmetic becomes elementary training only in so far as the reason why of every process is clear to the child. 2+2=4, is a self-evident fact, admitting of little demonstration; but 4X7=28 may be proved. He has a bag of beans; places four rows with seven beans in a row; adds the rows, thus: 7 and 7 are 14, and 7 are 21, and 7 are 28; how many sevens are in 28? 4. Therefore it is right to say 4X7=28; and the child sees that multiplication is only a short way of doing addition…” p. 255-256 Home Education
I hardly ever used counters to teach, I mostly used paper and the pictures that appeared on the paper. My first son survived the lack of manipulatives because he was very bright and went on to a very high level of maths, but I realised with subsequent children that those early homeschool maths lessons could have been less frustrating, and much quicker for him, if I used more counters and practical demonstrations.
Using manipulatives for first maths lessons such as practical hands on items that your child can manipulate to find the results. It helps your child understand the concrete concepts in maths, before they learn how to use the abstract ideas of numbers on a piece of paper.
After working with real objects, you may also help your child to make a mental image of real-life objects to help them do their addition and subtraction. For example: “If we have six people for dinner tonight and I have already put out 3 plates, how many more plates will I need to get out so everyone has a plate?”
It’s usually best to start all of your lessons with concrete example – not just addition. For counting and addition Charlotte Mason encourages counters, using buttons, beans and dominoes. For adding money use real money. Introduce textbooks but make sure children grasp counting and addition by testing them yourself with questions
Learning the timetables can be a struggle. Kids need a lot of practise with this and once they know them maths becomes easier. Flash cards, verbal drill, and speed drills can also help. You can usually begin teaching a form of multiplication using skip counting. 2-4–6- 8 etc.
Drill and Revision
Children do need revision of concepts, formulas, and measurements. I have found that a short daily drill book on things they have already learnt to be an essential part of their maths lessons. I use these in addition to their textbooks. For primary school you can usually find these types of books in bookstores stores and newsagents.
Teach Homeschool Maths In Daily Living
Some parents are natural teachers, they instinctively see a lesson in everything. However, some of us need to learn that habit. There are many opportunities in our day when we can have mini math moments without making it an official ‘homeschool math lesson’.
Real life teaching helps your child learn ideas. Charlotte Mason says:
“On the same principle, let him learn ‘weights and measures’ by measuring and weighing; let him have scales and weights, sand or rice, paper or twine, and weigh, and do up, in perfectly made parcels, ounces, pounds, etc. The parcels, though they are not arithmetic, are educative, and afford considerable exercise of judgment as well as of neatness, deftness, and quickness.
In like manner, let him work with foot-rule and yard measure, and draw up tables for himself. Let him not only measure and weigh everything about him that admits of such treatment, but let him use his judgment on questions of measure and weight.
How many yards long is the tablecloth?
How many feet long and broad a map, or picture?
What does he suppose a book weighs that is to go by parcel post?
The sort of readiness to be gained thus is valuable in the affairs of life, and, if only for that reason, should be cultivated in the child. While engaged in measuring and weighing concrete quantities, the scholar is prepared to take in his first idea of a ‘fraction,’ half a pound, a quarter of a yard, etc.” …p. 259-260 Home Education
Many of my friends and I used songs to teach the multiplication tables when driving the car.
Three Things That Helped Me Be A Better Homeschool Maths Teacher
- Be observant. I had two children who found maths easy and two who didn’t. I discovered, if my children were complaining or refusing to do their lessons it may be that their lessons were too long, too hard or that they were bored. If this is the case for you, try to work out reasons your child is struggling.
- Find a good tutor. My husband is an engineer and he helped teach maths sometimes, but he wasn’t home during the day when I needed the help. So we used Maths Online because it had a built in tutor, and we left the occasional problems that couldn’t be solved for an after dinner lesson.
- Sit on your hands. In the early years when the math problems that the children had were simple to solve, on more than one occasion, I took their pencil away and just solved the problem for them. It was so much quicker. BUT even as I was doing this I knew I shouldn’t. I needed to let them solve it which involved me taking them through the steps slowly. This was hard to do. When I was tempted to grab the pencil, I began to sit on my hands. One of my friends said she knitted during homeschool maths lessons for the same reason—to keep her hands off the pencil.
As Charlotte Mason says, “…there is no subject in which the teacher has a more delightful consciousness of drawing out from day to day new power in the child. Do not offer him a crutch: it is in his own power he must go. Give him short sums, in words rather than in figures, and excite him in the enthusiasm which produces concentrated attention and rapid work. Let his arithmetic lesson be to the child a daily exercise in clear thinking and rapid, careful execution, and his mental growth will be as obvious as the sprouting of seedlings in the spring”. Home Education p261
Preparing For Their Future
So even if you feel a little ‘lost at sea’ teaching homeschool maths, with some planning and by wisely choosing your curriculum, you can offer your child a challenging math education.
Lastly, let me remind you that not all children will have the same aptitude for maths. Two of mine stopped their math studies at Year 10 level. Two went on to higher grades, all went to university but only one studied math at university level.
Charlotte Mason says, “Therefore perhaps the business of teachers is to open as many doors as possible in the belief that Mathematics is one out of many studies which make for education, a study by no means accessible to everyone. Therefore it should not monopolise undue time, nor should persons be hindered from useful careers by the fact that they show no great proficiency in studies which are in favour with examiners no doubt, because solutions are final, and work can be adjudged without the tiresome hesitancy and fear of being unjust which beset the examiner’s path in other studies. We would send forth children informed by ‘the reason firm, the temperate will, endurance, foresight, strength and skill,’ but we must add resolution to our good intentions and may not expect to produce a reasonable soul of fine polish from the steady friction, say, of mathematical studies only.” p 152-153 Toward a Philosophy of Education
Choose Your Homeschool Maths Textbook Thoughtfully
With my four children I tried many math curriculums. My list included: Singapore Maths, Maths Online, Mathletics, Saxon Math, Life of Fred, Teaching Textbook, Miquon Math, Targeting Maths, Haese Maths, Signpost Math and I looked at a whole lot more than that.
I couldn’t settle on a maths curriculum because I was lured by the promise of the other curriculums. This chopping and changing was to my children’s detriment. Each time I swapped curriculums we had to repeat some concepts. But eventually I worked out that I needed to stop flipping all over the place, and stick with what I knew was good even though it was a little boring at times.
In the process of switching curriculums, I worked out some key components to finding a homeschool maths curriculum suitable for Australians.
Three things to be aware of when choosing a math curriculum:
- Do you want it to line up with your national syllabus?
If that is something that you need to do then watch out for. Also American curriculums use imperial measurements instead of metric. Many of their money problems in the primary years include nickels, dimes and quarters.
- Choose a textbook you feel you can confidently teach.
Another issue I discovered in my quest for the best homeschool maths curriculum was usability. I discovered that school math textbooks were not homeschool maths friendly. They often had a thick complicated teacher’s manual that required a long lesson before allowing your child to go and do their maths exercises. The teacher’s manual also assumed you had maths teacher training.
For primary homeschool maths, Singapore Math was my favourite. Although not written for Australian schools, it followed the Australian Curriculum well. It was probably slightly more demanding than some Australian curriculums, but it still used metric measurements and their money system converted well. My children still joke about the word problems of which included shopping for 35 kg of rice and 30 durians.
However, Singapore Math for high school is quite different in its layout to the primary program and it wasn’t set out in a way that was as easy to understand.
Saxon Math, although American was my pick for a high school math textbook. It did teach new concepts incrementally and had a good indexing system so you could look up something you were not sure about. It also had excellent revision each lesson. We did use this for quite a few years in high school. My main criticism of this was that each day’s maths lesson was easily an hour long (that was with my skipping some of the revision). It did use imperial measurements but it also included metric. It didn’t line up directly with the Australian Curriculum either, however if you were using it consistently you covered the same concepts eventually. Saxon also prepares children very well for university math.
For online math homeschool lessons, Maths Online was definitely the best program we used. I used it for all of my children. Pat Murray, the tutor of the lessons explained the high school math concepts very well. But for the most part my children managed this independently. And in high school we used it for many years as our main math program. I also loved it for record keeping. I was able to print off a summary of the work they had completed for the year. At My Homeschool we now offer a 50% Maths Online discount for our members.
I did try to use Teaching Textbooks, but the format was too silly and very American. I did try Mathletics, but the incentives ended up being distractions and my children wasted a lot of time without actually completing their maths lesson. I also occasionally used Khan Academy for the times my children got stuck on a concept. However, Khan was not a suitable curriculum as a stand alone.
- Learn To Teach Math or Find Someone Who Can
“Mathematics depends upon the teacher rather than upon the textbook and few subjects are worse taught; chiefly because teachers seldom have time to give the inspiring ideas.” Charlotte Mason, p. 233 Toward a Philosophy of Education
When my first child started learning difficult algebra, I spent one Friday night working on the lesson he had struggled with that day, after a couple of hours (and a few wrong answers) I gave up. I didn’t want to redo my whole high school maths course again. I had other ways I wanted to spend my time. So how could I serve my child well in math when I didn’t have the skills.
Suggested Curriculum For My Homeschool Maths
Before you choose a curriculum please consider this important detail, you must pick a maths program you can confidently teach. What I mean by that is if you do not feel confident teaching in your maths ability you will probably struggle with a maths resource that doesn’t have a lot of instruction.
Math is also a subject that may need tutors in high school if you do not feel confident in this subject.
Some Homeschool Maths Curriculum Suggestions
At My Homeschool we include a math curriculum from Kindergarten to Year 2. From Year 3 we encourage you to choose your own curriculum to suit your child and your ability. In our homeschool programs we go a little more in-depth into finding a math curriculum suitable for your child’s grade and ability.
We are often asked what curriculum we recommend. The answer is it depends! However we can give you a short list of some of the popular homeschool math programs.
- Singapore Maths curriculum. I used this till 6th grade for all my kids and I really liked it. They do follow the Australian curriculum quite well and they use the metric system.
- Saxon Math (America) is very comprehensive and will give your kids a good grounding but lessons take a long time (up to an hour a day in later primary).
- Math-U-See – this is a very popular program that uses video instruction. The method is mastery rather than a sequential approach to teaching math. It seems you love it or hate it.
- Life of Fred (American) I do like this program but it’s really best used as a supplement. The terms used are often advanced and the measurement and money problems require extra effort to solve.. The story of Fred’s antics and his ridiculous math problems delighted my children and they read them for fun. Get it here.
- Right Start Math is also American and popular.
- Teaching Textbooks is quite popular because it is a computer based course. Many homeschoolers use this.
- MEP – A free British math primary program. You’ll find the website here. It looks a bit overwhelming at first but it’s very good.
- Khan Academy is another place to go for particular lectures on concepts. They have a full Indian Syllabus Math Curriculum.
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