Trying to decide whether to change your homeschool math curriculum? Learn how to weigh the pros and cons and make your switch a success.
Reasons for Changing Homeschool Math Curriculum
Are any of these true in your homeschool?
- Math is causing tears. (Either for your child or you!)
- Math is taking more time than you have to give it.
- You’ve been using a more traditional math curriculum and would like to explore using a conceptual curriculum.
- You have already taught this math curriculum to your first several children and you just can’t handle going through the same book a fourth (or fifth…or sixth…) time.
- Your child is bored and not challenged enough.
- Your child just doesn’t seem to click with your math program, and you’re hoping another approach will make more sense to him or her.
If so, it might be time to change math program. In this article, I’ll help you weigh the pros and cons of switching math programs and show you how to make your curriculum switch a success.
Advantages of Changing Your Homeschool Math Curriculum
When you switch programs, of course you’re hoping that the new curriculum will be a better fit for your family and more effective for your child. But there are other advantages to switching, too.
Meeting Your Child’s Changing Needs
My third-grader Henry has already used three different math curricula: RightStart, Singapore Math, and Beast Academy. All three are excellent programs, and mixing up what I’ve used each year has allowed me to adjust my math instruction as his needs have changed each year.
First, RightStart gave him an excellent foundation in number concepts. Then, Singapore helped him transition from hands-on math activities to written work and reading a textbook. Now, Beast Academy provides interesting problems, builds his problem-solving perseverance, and feeds his curiosity about numbers.
Growing as a Teacher
Another advantage of switching math programs is how much I learn each time I use a new curriculum. From RightStart, I learned how to use the abacus and carefully scaffold mental math development. From Singapore, I learned more about the ins and outs of complex word problems. Now, from Beast, I am learning how to let my son struggle and persevere through difficult problems. Because each program has its own distinctive emphases and teaching methods, I’ve been able to add some new techniques to my teaching repertoire every time I use a new program.
Learning More About Your Child’s Learning Style
Finally, switching curriculum has also helped me to learn more about how my son learns best. As I’ve seen him approach different curricula, I’ve learned that he’s a very social learner who likes to figure things out for himself. He quickly loses steam if he has a lot of similar practice problems to do, but he’ll work doggedly on problems that challenge him. This insight has helped me make better curriculum choices not just in math but in all subjects.
Possible Downsides of Changing Math Curriculum (and How to Overcome Them)
Different Scope and Sequence
Each curriculum has its own scope and sequence (that is, which topics it covers, in which grades, and in which order.) If you switch midstream from one curriculum to another, your child may miss some topics or waste time reviewing material that she’s already mastered.
To prevent this, make sure your child takes the placement test for the curriculum that you are switching to. It’s quite likely that your child will place at a different “grade level” than your previous curriculum, since the scope and sequences can be significantly different. Don’t be tempted to push your child ahead just to stay at an artificial grade level—if you didn’t have tears with math before, you will now! It’s much better to build confidence and understanding by doing some brisk review than to risk frustration by floundering in a book that’s too difficult.
Spending Time Getting to Know a New Program
Switching curriculum has a learning curve for both the parent and child. Both of you have to get used to a new format, layout, and lesson style. Plus, you have to learn how to teach the new curriculum and become familiar with any distinctive features of the program.
To make the transition as smooth as possible, make sure you spend some time with the program before trying to teach your first lesson. Read the introductory materials to become familiar with the philosophy of the program, and preview the first unit to understand the objectives and lesson formats. When you first introduce the book to your child, spend a little time looking over the book together and discussing how the book is organized. These small steps will make the changeover much easier on both of you.
Not Finding the Root of the Problem
While there are many good reasons to change curriculum, switching shouldn’t be the automatic answer to math struggles. Before switching, make sure to pause to pinpoint what exactly isn’t working for you and your child. If you don’t stop to analyze the problem, there is a danger of using curriculum as a scapegoat any time math isn’t going well. Just because a child is struggling with math doesn’t mean that the curriculum is at fault. Make sure to consider how much time and effort you’re investing in teaching well, and how hard your child is working to understand and practice the math. Even the best curriculum isn’t effective without focused effort and good attitudes from both student and teacher. And sometimes, learning some math topics is just plain hard work that requires perseverance and struggle, no matter which curriculum you use.
Just because you’ve used a certain math curriculum in the past doesn’t mean you have to stick with it forever. You are your child’s teacher and you know your child best. So, do your research, think through your options, and trust yourself that you’re able to make a good decision. No matter what, make sure to keep your end goal in mind: raising children who are capable and confident in math…without pulling all your hair out in the process.