With all of the teaching, parenting, and housework that we have to get done in the day, it’s no wonder that many moms choose a homeschool math curriculum that their children can work on independently. Saxon and Teaching Textbooks are two of the most popular independent homeschool math curricula, but older children who are strong readers have many different options for independent math work.
Even if your child is a good independent worker, there are many good reasons to stay plugged in to what your child is doing in math.
- Accountability. We all tend to let things slide if no one is checking up on us, and children are no exception. Kids aren’t always aware of when they’re not understanding a concept, so they need help from us to assess their understanding and keep them on track.
- Encouragement. Whether your child has trouble with math or is highly gifted, she’ll be grateful to know that you care about her progress in math.
- Future math help. Staying plugged in to what your child is learning in math will jog your memory and help you refresh your own math skills. This will help you down the road when you child comes to you with a question in algebra or pre-calculus!
Mentoring your independent learner doesn’t have to take hours a week, though. Instead, plan for a quick, five-minute math conference each day. Here’s how to make the most of your five minutes.
1. Check that your child understands the day’s lesson. Understanding is key to long-term math success. Unfortunately, just because a child got all the problems right doesn’t mean he really understands what he’s doing. Ask him to tell you what he learned in the lesson, and ask how the lesson connects to what he already knows. For example, in a lesson on rounding decimals to the nearest whole number, you might ask, “How do you know what number to round to? Why do you round up if the tenths place is five or greater? Can you show me on the number line? How does rounding decimals to the nearest whole number connect to dollars and cents?”
2. Ask your child to explain how he solved two problems. Pick two problems, one easier and one harder, and ask him to explain what he did. Listen closely to see if he really understands the process or is just blindly following the steps in the book.
3. Take a close look at any problems your child got wrong. Analyze with your child what went wrong. Was it simply a careless mistake, or does it show a lack of understanding? Don’t be afraid to require your child to repeat a lesson or to slow down and focus on a topic if he’s having trouble with it. Our goal isn’t a pile of completed worksheets; it’s actually learning the math.
4. Don’t neglect mental math. If your curriculum includes mental math warm-ups and math fact practice, make sure you child continues to do these. Mental math skills and the math facts are key to continued math success and confidence, so keep practicing until they are fully mastered.
Independent homeschool math curricula are great time-savers for busy moms. A five minute math conference each day will help keep your independent learner on the right track.
If your children aren’t ready for math independence yet (like mine!), take a look at my tips on how to teach an excellent homeschool math lesson. Thanks for reading!