It is important for parents and students alike to understand the pacing of a weekly class schedule. In a classroom setting, it is important that each student be responsible for his or her own learning. Students can accomplish this by completing homework assignments before class, attempting to rework any problems they do not understand, and coming to class prepared with questions of problems they do not understand how to solve.
Each class will begin with a time to answer questions. Because this time is limited, it is critical that students have attempted to correct any problems on their own using the resources at their disposal, such as notes from class, example problems from their textbook, working with a peer, parents, etc. This will leave class time for those difficult to work problems that cause students to be stumped. As they watch the instructor work out the problem that they have attempted, this creates an “aha” moment and aids students with comprehension.
The bulk of class time will revolve around teaching lessons. Covering an entire textbook in only thirty-two weeks is no easy feat and time is of the essence. Students will have a stronger understanding of the material if they will read over the lessons prior to classroom instruction. Each week the initial set of homework will include practice problems very similar to the examples given in class. It is critical that students ask for help if there is ANY struggle answering these initial questions. This is the basis or foundation of the lesson. Without a strong understanding, students will continue to flounder.
Parents, if students are coming to you asking questions that you cannot answer…PLEASE let me know. Sometimes in a classroom setting, a student is nervous about asking a question in front of others. I will do my very best to make this as easy as possible, such as allowing students to write down their question on the board before class, turning questions in to me privately, and most importantly, never making a student feel stupid or ridiculous for asking a question. I WILL encourage students to attempt the problem again on their own, to look at their notes and in their textbook, and to ask a peer or parent for help. My rule of thumb is – ask three, then me. This helps keep a classroom running smoothly and keeps us from getting bogged down with too many questions that with some extra work on the student’s part can be accomplished without my help. I find this also helps students retain the material better as well.
Mathematical concepts build upon each other just like a house is built. First you need a strong foundation before you can build the walls and add siding. Before beginning a math course, there are certain skills required for a student to excel. If a student is to begin Algebra 1 and does not understand the concept of order of operations (a skill taught in Math Course 1), this student will struggle until the missing gaps of understanding are filled. Making sure the necessary building blocks are in place will help a student to build confidence. I have found confidence to be a key factor in students excelling in mathematics. Without this component, students are unfocused, lack desire, and ultimately, struggle to learn the material.
In a class situation, it is even more critical, as individual student time is limited. If a student is taking a course and not fully understanding the material, both time and money are being wasted. By testing students and making sure all of the necessary building blocks of learning are in place, students will excel in a classroom setting. Taking the time to assess students is fully worth parents time and investment when it comes to enrolling a student in a math class.
The following concepts are simply suggestions and are not meant to be a rule for every child. I am also not suggesting this is the only concept that should be taught, but simply a recommendation for when a particular concept should be taught/mastered by the end of that particular grade level.
1st grade – Addition
2nd grade – Subtraction
3rd grade – Multiplication/Memorize multiplication tables
4th grade – Division
5th grade – Fractions
6th grade – Decimals
7th grade – Percent
8th grade – Pre-Algebra
9th grade – Algebra I
10th grade – Geometry
11th grade – Algebra II
12th grade – Advanced Algebra & Trigonometry OR Statistics
I have parents come to me and say, “My child is ready for Algebra I, but I skipped all the stuff he/she didn’t need to know.” ”
What I say – “Okay, well, let’s give them a placement test to see where they are.”
and what I want to say – “You did what?!?”
What I find so disconcerting about this comment is that math is not like history or science. In history, you can learn about Rome without learning about the Etruscans or the Byzantines. In science, you can learn astronomy without learning the physics behind the star’s fusion. Because all of you reading this are readers :), you understand the basics of learning to read. You cannot learn to read without first learning the letters and their sounds. You then learn to blend words or perhaps memorize sight words or in most cases, both. Learning to read is progressive and skipping steps is not an option.
Talk with any math professor, and they will be able to tell you how often they are required to teach basic math skills students never learned along the way before reaching their class. Those things that you don’t think you use as an adult – therefore, why would my child need this information – is a misnomer. We use math every day in far more situations than we realize. The foundation must be there in order to progress to higher level maths. Take time to teach each concept and check for understanding through more than one type of assessment and review, review, review.
How does someone become an excellent educator? It is the ability to learn, modeling for children a love for learning. If you have a willingness to learn, you can sit down with your child and together you can learn anything. You don’t have to know it already. You don’t even have to get it right the first time. It’s even okay to have a wrong answer every once in a while. Thomas Edison didn’t get the light bulb right the first time. We too will struggle in our quest for gaining knowledge. This is where we learn humility, perseverance, and how to make wise use of our time.
As living beings with a limited amount of time on this earth, we all have to make choices as to where and how we spend our time. Having the ability to learn and making the wise choice of how to help your child learn do not always coincide. For example, growing up I was on the swim team and still have a great love for swimming. However, at the time my daughter needed to learn how to swim, I also had a two-year-old son. Attempting the feat of watching him around water and teaching my daughter to swim at the same time did not seem like the best idea. Instead our family chose to pay for swimming lessons where someone else could teach my daughter to swim, and I could spend that time focusing on my son while still watching her swimming lessons at the same time.
For you as parents, you will constantly be faced with the same choice. Which subjects or areas of life will you teach your child and which ones will you choose to find someone else to teach them. Perhaps you want to teach your oldest algebra, but it will mean lots of time studying the material yourself and you still have younger children at home you are teaching/caring for at the same time. Making the choice to hire a tutor or have your child attend a math class or *gasp* put them in public or private school may very well be the best option. The end goal of learning algebra is still achieved.
I love having conversations with homeschool parents, if nothing else for no other reason than to encourage them. So many homeschool parents share the same fear my mother had while homeschooling my brother and I growing up. “Am I teaching them everything they need to know? Is there something I’m missing? Will I regret not having them in a mainstream educational facility?” Those are just a few of the questions parents’ often ask themselves while homeschooling. When I chose to major in education, one thought I often had was, “No one can ever tell me I can’t homeschool my own children.” I knew I was qualified by the state’s standards and therefore, more than qualified to teach my own children. So how does that help other homeschool parents who don’t have a degree in education? I’m glad you asked.
Have you ever given a speech and felt nervous just before speaking? Even speakers who give presentations all the time may feel somewhat jittery. Many would say this is normal. This applies to homeschool parents as well. Those questions you are asking yourself. Those fears, second guesses, are a good thing. You are normal. You become a better teacher and parent when you are constantly evaluating your curriculum, your methodology, your schedule, your activities, your children’s learning styles, and I could go on and on. The Bible says we are not to live in fear. 2 Timothy 1:7 For God gave us not a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control. Keep asking yourself those questions with a spirit of power, of love, and of self-control. As you have those questions, pray and ask God for the answers you need. Speak with other homeschool parents. Draw from the vast resources available to us living in the 20th century.
I am so grateful to my parents for homeschooling me growing up. My father worked very hard, so my mother could stay-at-home, and as homeschool parents well know, my mother made many sacrifices in order to homeschool my brother and myself. Neither of my parents graduated from college, but both my brother and I have gone on to receive degrees. My brother went on to get his masters and now runs his own company at the age of 28. I am living my dream of being a stay-at-home mom homeschooling my two children. I have more time to focus on their educational needs and their walk with Christ.
Homeschooling isn’t perfect. It’s flawed because we are human, just as public school, private school, or any other educational institution is. I want to say, “Thank you! Thank you for taking the responsibility of educating your children, whether that means you choose to homeschool them, send them to public school, or pay for private school.” The choice is yours and only you know what is best for your family. I pray God blesses you mightily in your endeavors, because ultimately, the responsibility of educating our children relies on us, the parents.