Over the years I have supported countless homeschool families all over the country. It has been a great pleasure to get to know all these families and help them with managing their math education. Of course these families have taught me much as well. I see a homeschool parents as fellow teachers so I love to get their lessons learned as well. I wanted to put together a list of the most important areas homeschoolers want to focus on for a great math education for their high school student- enjoy!
1. Curriculum Is Critical
This is probably one of the most important items on the list and most difficult for parents to get right- what curriculum do I use? Well the answer is the curriculum that works for you and your child without sacrificing the quality of education. Moreover there is no perfect one curriculum for all children. What you need to do is figure out the type of courses your child enjoys. Maybe they like a video based course over a textbook- if so focus your search on video based courses. However you really need to pay attention to how comprehensive a course is as you don’t want a course that is too easy for your child. Finding the right curriculum is not easy and the sooner you start looking for the right course for your homeschooler the better. Listen you “may think” that you have the perfect course but as your child engages the curriculum you find out it’s totally wrong- I’m sure many of you have been there. So be flexible, do your research and change your curriculum if your child is not learning.
2. What You Did In Middle School Counts Big
Middle school math sets the foundation for high school math. So you really want to ensure your child masters core basic math skills by the time they are in 8th grade. These skills would include fractions, order of operations, positive and negative numbers and basic algebra. Hence you need to look to see if the curriculum they are using is getting them to master these skills- if it’s not change! Also your child does not have to learn everything at the middle school level perfectly. As long as they have mastered and retained core skills they will be ready for high school algebra.
3. Algebra Must Be Mastered Early
By far algebra 1 is the most important course your child will take in high school. How they do in algebra 1 will set the tone for the rest of their high school math education. Hence start early and work on totally mastering all the skills in the course- this may well take you a full year or a little longer. Don’t worry if you have to spend 16 months doing algebra 1 as long as your child really understands it is all that your concerned about. Lastly don’t rush the course even if your child is great at algebra. With those gifted students I would give them more challenging algebra problems and just get them to understand the material even better.
4. Geometry Before Algebra 2
I’m a big believer that your child must take geometry before algebra 2. First your child will need to know geometry for the SAT/ACT so you don’t wanting them taking this course in the year they are taking college prep exams. Second, algebra 1 then algebra 2- two years of algebra can you say “algebra burn out”? Lastly you want your child to come out of algebra 2 and go right into a pre-calculus course because they need fresh strong algebra skills to be successful for the advance concepts taught in pre-calculus.
5. Don’t Rush A Course
High school math courses are designed to take a full year. Although your child maybe able to go through the material quickly you need to be concerned about long-term retention and understanding. Hence your students should not fly through a geometry course in 3 months and move onto the next thing. Like I said there are advance students that are eager to move to the next course level but you want to develop these students smartly. My suggestion is you need to spend at least 6 months in a course level. If you finish early then the course you are taking is either too easy or you not reviewing enough with challenging problems.
6. Calculus Should Be Taken In A Classroom
Now when your child is in 12th grade they very well can be ready for Calculus 1. I would suggest homeschoolers enroll their child in the local community college or see if they can take the course at your high school. They key point is at this level of advance math you need a teacher and a classroom. Although I’m a big supporter of individual course education in K -12 subjects Calculus is an exception. The course is too complex for most people to learn on their own. If you can’t get your child into a classroom setting then you can learn at home with the idea that your child will take the course again in college.
7. You Need A Math Teacher
High school mathematics is complex. I have a degree in math and a master’s in education and trust me high school math is not easy. As such you want your child to be taught by a qualified experienced teacher. Of course video courses are perfect for this as long as the teacher is indeed a certified instructor with a degree in math. Although there are many great math teachers without degrees in math these teachers still lack the theoretical background to explain complex topics in-depth. The more a teacher knows about the subject the better they “should be” at teaching it. Lastly homeschooling parents need to be very careful about the amount of instructional duties they take on at the high school math level. Sure you may have an engineering degree or aced math in high school but that does not guarantee that your child will understand your teaching style. Of course if your teaching is connect with your child then great- but in most families this is not the case.
8. Students Forget If They Don’t Review
We all love those long summer vacations but they can come at a big cost if you are not careful. What I mean is your child needs to be learning year round when it comes to high school math. Now they don’t need to learn full time during the summer but they certainly need to review at least a few times a week. If they don’t review they forget and you will start off a new year having to re-teach many old concepts/skills. Be smart and make time for review during your long breaks.
9. You Don’t Need To Finish Everything
Most parents want their child in AP Calculus when they become seniors. This is a great goal but not absolutely critical to do well in high school math. Remember high school is to prepare students for college and I think leaving Calculus 1 for their freshman year in college is perfectly fine.
Your objective for high school math is to master the core skills of algebra 1 though pre-calculus. Even if your child can handle Calculus 1 in the 12th grade don’t push it unless they really have mastered the other courses first.
10. Study And Learning Skills Are Critical
My last item that you need to focus on in high school math is habits. Does your child take great notes? Do they do their homework without being forced? Do they know how to use time management on a test? A big part of high school is learning how to be an effective student. Trust me the best math students I have taught had the best study skills. You need to set high standards of neatness and organization early on so your child has great habits before they go to college.
A great high school math education for your child can help them in so many ways. From top SAT/ACT scores to earning scholarships math plays an important role for your child. My goal with this article is to help you focus on the most important areas so you can best support your child. Homeschooling is not easy but the rewards can be great if done properly- this article will help you along your journey.