In my last article (found here), I wrote about keeping the focus big and bright on only four basics:
Mathematics, Reading, Writing, and Character Development.
Let’s talk Math!
At this early age, Math is pretty straightforward. (Even if Math scares you a little, like it does for me.) I try to keep it as one of the first subjects we do each day so that their minds are fresh and ready to tackle it well!
Depending on your child’s learning style, there are many options that could work.
I tend to keep it pretty simple and use A Beka workbooks. They are repetitive but very thorough, so I know my child will be solidly grounded in the math facts by the end of the grade. They usually cost around $22-25, and are widely available.
I also don’t get the answer keys since the math is so basic I figure I don’t need them at this level. (Don’t tell A Beka.)
I have a small bin of plastic “counting bears” as a visual aid for addition and subtraction for my earliest learners, and to explain lower-level multiplication/division. Anything small will work – buttons, beans, toy cars, crayons, Cheerios… (just don’t be surprised if the Cheerios start disappearing mysteriously).
Other moms I know have kids who do better with other math curriculum, like Math-U-See or Singapore Math. It really comes down to how your child learns best.
Try not to get too bogged down in research before you just start. It can become so overwhelming that decision-paralysis sets in.
If your child is genuinely struggling, pray about it first. The God who created your child’s mind and heart will help bring you the wisdom and resources you need. It’s remarkable how suddenly the connections and information you’re looking for will gently become clear in the upcoming days. It’s another way God shows His loving care and concern for every aspect of our lives.
The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.
Psalm 37:23, NLT
Sometimes He’ll bring along another mom with a kid who learns remarkably similarly to yours, and you can get help and advice along with friendly support!
You know your child.
Trust your gut and trust that you are the best person to figure out how to help them learn in the way that most fits them.
If your child is a slow and deliberate math student (I have at least one of these), it might be a good idea to set a timer, and take a break from whatever else you are doing to sit with them and patiently explain and help. Kind voice, no judgement, just pretend you’re a tutor with nothing else to do but patiently help this child have a pleasant interaction with math for a brief time.
Start with 15 mins (or less), if they’re struggling. Then slowly work up to 30 mins. When the timer rings, math is done for the day. Even if they’ve only got through half a page. Or less. At the start it should be more about teaching consistency and familiarity with concepts. And avoiding tears. (For them and you!)
Then, as they get a bit older and more confident, another helpful idea is to plan something fun or different that they enjoy immediately following math (if math is more of a challenge for them). Have a coloring or LEGO-time for 20 mins afterwards, or a fun snack, or let them run outside and blow bubbles or build a fort in the living room, or have a read-aloud time with an enjoyable book, cuddling together.
If your child is more like a streak of light able to rush and get through math quickly (I’ve got a few of these), require a minimum amount per day – for me it’s one lesson (2 pages), and I check in often to make sure they understand what they’re doing.
But for the most part, these lightning-learners only need my help with explaining a new concept – and then they’re off again. Sometimes I have to slow them down and encourage them to breathe – my young daughter flew through seven lessons without stopping the other morning, and I wanted to make sure she was grasping the new material.
Home school is wonderful in that if your child wants to fly and feels confident shooting through the material in a subject, they can!
They are not being held back by the lowest common denominator, but can move quickly on to something that actually challenges them more, even if it is beyond their peer-group grade level.
Home school is phenomenal in that if your child needs extra time and nurturing in a subject so that they achieve mastery before moving on, they have that opportunity!
They are able to receive the attention and tailored approach they need to thrive and learn. This relieves the stress, fear, and the feelings of inadequacy and insecurity that can easily develop in a forced group-learning style when something is more of a challenge for them.
One day I sat at the table and helped one child with two things: how to write a number eight (my child was stumped) and what the ten’s place value was. For thirty minutes we did nothing else except practice swooping 8’s, and discussing and practicing place value.
Guess what? While we did not get through even a fraction of the workbook that day, by the end there was an encouraged smile in place of tears, a new pride in the smoothly-written 8’s on the page, and a secure grasp of place value for two-digit numbers.
This was serious math success because of the way my child had experienced math in a positive, confident way. This is when home schooling seriously rocks!
What a precious gift this kind of learning can be – for their heart and yours.
So take a deep breath, mama. You got this! I’m cheering you on.