When you get into the upper grades for math, it can seem to take FOREVER to get a math lesson done. In fact, sometimes it's so overwhelming it's even tempting to skip math from time to time... and then you find yourself WAY behind in the book. Has that ever happened to you? Don't stress! I'm going to share nine strategies to help you get on track and stay on track with teaching homeschool high school math.
1. Teach Short Lessons
Charlotte Mason advocates know that short lessons are the best way to maximize learning. Did you know that is proven with science? Yup! And that's why schools limit high school classes to about 50 minutes per subject each day! After 50 minutes your brain starts going slower... and slower... and slooowwwerrrr, until you hardly make progress at all! A great way to get homeschool high school math done is to work on it in intervals of 50 minutes at a time. In other words, do 50 minutes in the morning, then do something else and come back to finish up the lesson in the evening.
2. Put Weak Areas First
If you have trouble getting a math level done in a year, chances are it's not your favorite subject, or your child's. So remember to put weak areas first. That means math is the first subject your child does in the morning - after breakfast, shower, and getting dressed, so they are ready to go. Do math for no more than 50 minutes. Later in the day, they can come back to math if needed, to finish up the lesson. Put your weak area first in your priority list too. In other words, don't let anything come between you and math. No matter what else happens, do math before you leave your home for the day - no matter what! And with your weak area, that's the one area where it's okay to re-purchase another curriculum if what you have isn't working. If you find out a month or two into it that it's just not working, buy something else! Your weak area is the one area where it's always worth the money to re-purchase curriculum.
3. Have a Morning Meeting
Each morning, have a meeting with your child to discuss math. Ask how it's going, check their lessons, tell them about a test, or set them up with their video tutorials. Having a daily check-in says "I'm watching" and "I care that you do this stuff" and conveys that you are prioritizing this subject. A daily check-in can help you with many subjects. Try it, you'll like it!
4. Reward Good Performance
You can reward their good performance with fewer assigned problems. You see, textbook manufacturers can only guess at how many problems your child will need to complete in order to understand the concepts. Maybe they don't need them all! So here is what I suggest. Do alternate problems first, and correct their work. If they get almost all of them right, they may not need to do any more problems. You can reward them by saying "That's it! No more!" This approach can give them the number of problems they need, but not so many that they feel overwhelmed and like math never ends. I know, I know... homeschool moms like to get their dollar's worth out of a textbook by doing every single problem. That's awesome - I was like that, too! But take a step back and focus on learning. Is doing one entire lesson in one day the goal? Nope! Learning is the goal. You don't want all those problems and the concern for the almighty buck to stand in the way of finishing one math level each year.
5. Choose Curriculum Carefully
Choose a curriculum that fits your child. If what you have is working, keep with it! But if it's not working, consider making a change. In the early years, parents often choose a curriculum that's easy for them to teach and use, and that's great! But in high school, it becomes less and less about us, and more and more about the preferences of the child. Allow the student to choose a curriculum that fits them well. That means showing them the video tutorial for each curriculum, and having them choose the one that works the best for them. Think of it this way: if they have the perfectly-reviewed homeschool high school math curriculum but they hate it, they may only learn 50% of the subject because the curriculum drives them crazy. On the other hand, if you have a moderately-reviewed math program that they like and use without complaining, perhaps they will learn 80% of the subject and will ultimately be more successful. You can learn more about choosing curriculum in this article, High School Math at Home.
6. Avoid Over-Supplementing
When you don't get math done in a year, it can be tempting to think the child just isn't getting it, when often it's simply a matter of priorities and organization. So if you think - or know - that your child just isn't getting it, avoid over-supplementing to the point where you are working for hours and hours a day on the most-hated subject they wish to avoid. That can truly cause some burnout for everyone in the family! It's tempting to supplement, add, review, and re-review concepts. Here is what I suggest: if they just aren't getting it, it's probably a curriculum mismatch. Choose a different curriculum.
7. Expect Mastery, Not Perfection
I think I have mastery over addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. But I promise you, I'm not perfect, even with those basic skills. Sometimes my checkbook, bank accounts, or shopping trip will prove just how imperfect I really am. Here is the thing you need to remember: nobody is perfect. Don't expect perfection in homeschool high school math, or you'll never finish a math level. Instead, aim for mastery of the concepts. Maybe that means they get 80% on tests before moving on, but that's OK. Your goal is mastery, not the unattainable perfection.
8. Adjust Expectations
Do one level of math every year in high school. State requirements, college requirements, and employers will all want to see math every year of high school, but colleges and states do not require calculus! So adjust your expectations. Teach them at their level in math each year so they can be successful, and work to complete one math level each year. That's how they will learn and even be more successful on the SAT® or ACT®. Pushing them too hard and too fast can make those test scores worse if they don't understand the concepts because it's overwhelming to them. Make sure they do math every year including senior year, even if they already have completed four math credits. Colleges want to see that students take math during senior year. And fair warning - college orientation will often include a spontaneous standardized math test, so incoming freshman can be placed into the correct math classes. When possible, keep moving forward with math, even if that means your child is taking pre-calculus and you don't even know what pre-calculus means! If that isn't possible, consider statistics or business math as a senior. Keep math challenging but not overwhelming. Just remember that taking math in senior year is important.
9. Embrace Hard Work
Math is the gateway to college and career success. It's not an easy subject, but it does teach children how to work hard. Sometimes people ask me how to teach a strong work ethic to children. This is how. Teach math every year in high school. It's a challenge, and it teaches children to rise to the challenge. It's tempting to ask "When will we ever use this stuff?!" The truth is, you will use it often. If you learn upper level math, simple daily math challenges you face as an adult become easier. The other day I had to adjust a photo to a different size, and I used algebra. I could have done it the hard way and guessed my way to the proper dimensions, but using algebra saved me time. Every day I work hard at some things that I just don't like to do. I use the same work ethic and problem solving skills I used when I didn't like math, but I did it anyway. Homeschool high school math is hard work. That's not why you should avoid it; that's why you should embrace it. That's why it's good for you.
Using these strategies will help ease anxieties and give you effective approaches for homeschool high school math going forward. You've got this!
My easy-to-digest book High School Math the Easy Way may be just the thing for you if you feel you need to learn more, or if you just want more encouragement. It's part of my Coffee Break Book series and is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions!
I share more about High School Math the Easy Way in the video review below!