In the first post in this math series, I talked about how we as homeschooling parents need to break away from this idea that we're bad at math. There are so many resources and experts available to us today that we can keep learning math right alongside our children!
When choosing a homeschool math curriculum, there are a few things to remember. I hope this guide will help you make this tough decision.
1. Know How Much Prep You Can Take
Are you overwhelmed by a lot of stuff? Do you tend to skip the hands-on things and go right towards the work? Or maybe you're pretty much Ms. Frizzle? Knowing these things is really helpful when you're looking to get started with homeschool math curriculum. If we pick one that doesn't work for US, then it certainly won't work for our children.
2. Know How Your Child Likes to Learn
I put this one second because I am cautious about assuming our children can only learn a specific way (auditory, visual, kinesthetic...) This was an educational hypothesis that people ran with before proving it was true. It is a little-researched idea. It's true that children tend to prefer a specific way of learning, but saying they CAN'T learn in another way limits them.
Maybe your child would rather do hands-on projects than a math workbook. That will tell you a lot about the math curriculum you choose. Maybe an online component would be really helpful.
3. Understand if Spiral or Mastery Curriculum Will Work Best For You
Broadly speaking, there are two types of math curriculum: spiral and mastery. Spiral curriculum teaches a skill, moves on, and then comes back to it a few months later. I taught using a spiral curriculum, Everyday Math, my first year of teaching. The district I taught in abandoned the spiral curriculum for a mastery curriculum the next year. A mastery curriculum teaches math skills until a student can master them. They will likely revisit the skill through a review or integrated with another skill, but they will probably have a deep understanding of it before moving on.
There are pros and cons of both types of curriculum: a spiral curriculum keeps children from becoming overly bored because they move on to another skill so quickly. But, it also leaves some students feeling confused, saying things like, "I don't remember ever learning that."
A mastery curriculum teaches a skill thoroughly, which is, in my opinion, a positive.
4. Research The Extras
Many curricula have extras that are easy to overlook. These might be really helpful for you, so researching these ahead of time is wise. Would extra videos, practice pages, or tests be helpful for your child? If so, make sure to find a curriculum that includes those things!
Also, some curriculum companies offer a placement exam so that you can be sure your child is doing the right level of math. That might be really helpful if you are transitioning from another curriculum or from a school environment.
5. Look Into The Curriculum Local Schools Use
Homeschoolers are accustomed to not worrying about what the school down the road is doing, but there is a case in which this might be helpful: if you think there's a chance that you may EVER send your child to school, knowing which math curriculum the school uses could be a life saver. This would make the transition to school leaps and bounds easier for your child somewhere in the future. For me, I chose the curriculum that the school I used to teach at uses, knowing that sending my kids to that school might be an option someday.
6. Investigate Price Point
You might have found your dream curriculum, but if it's too expensive to buy year after year, then it isn't the right choice for you. Some curricula can be bought "bare bones," meaning you can buy certain books without the additional materials, saving you a lot of money. Some, however, require you to buy all of the materials, so that big investment is the only option.
When you finally decide which homeschool math curriculum to use, I think it's best to stay put and not switch around year after year. The grass will always look greener, and shiny new options will always appear, but unless you made a really poor choice to begin with, sticking it out is the best bet. This is because terminology and skills taught vary from one curriculum to another. It's possible that your child will develop big gaps in their math education if they skip from one curriculum to another, and might get confused when new terminology is introduced. Obviously, as your children get older, what worked for them at one point might not continue to work. In that case, totally scrap my advice and do what works best for your family!
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