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A Math Curriculum for Homeschooling

Homeschooling Expert Advice from Isabel Shaw

Q: What are your suggestions for a math curriculum? We like the structure of a curriculum that offers customer support and grading, but we've also heard that Saxon math is very good.

A: Your question brings up both the advantages and disadvantages of using a prepackaged curriculum. There is no question that a prepackaged curriculum is the easiest choice for those parents new to homeschooling. It offers the security of a teaching style most like the school system, and therefore it is familiar and feels "safe." However, your family is also restricted to materials that are not necessarily the best choice for all subjects. This is the reason many experienced homeschoolers slowly begin the shift toward choosing their materials, and eventually, creating their own curriculum.

Saxon math is certainly a good program, and many families have used it successfully. My daughter hated it, and I had to give it up mid-year. The point is, what works for your child may not be appropriate for mine. With a curriculum package, you have no choice in the matter; your child — and you — may become discouraged.

Here is a sample of the best math programs on the market today:
Saxon Math (www.saxonpub.com) — Math textbook.
Key Curriculum Press (www.keypress.com) — Math workbooks.
Miquon Math from Key Curriculum Press — Manipulatives (cuisenaire rods or base 10 blocks) and workbooks.
Math-U-See (www.mathusee.com) — Manipulatives, workbooks, and instructional video.
Calvert Math (www.calvertschool.org) — Textbook/workbook with manipulatives.
Harold Jacobs Math (www.hsrc.com) — Textbooks with clear descriptions of concepts.

Experienced parents know that with so many choices, it's really not in a child's best interests to limit curricula to only one provider. This is also true for literature, science, history, etc. I recommend purchasing teaching materials that accommodate your child's learning style. For instance, Saxon is very dry and repetitive. A child who likes drill and repetition, who can sit and concentrate easily, will do well with this method. Math-U-See is for a more active child who prefers a "hands-on" learning style and learns best by doing. Parents have told me Miquon Math presents math in a very clear, concise, easy-to-understand manner — good for children who have difficulty grasping new concepts. Without knowing your child, it's impossible to recommend a specific program.

I suggest doing a lot of research and contacting major curriculum suppliers. Compare what is offered in each program, and how they best fit your goals. Talk with other parents and find out what has worked for them and why. I think you'll find the article, "Choosing a Homeschool Curriculum" helpful.

More on: Expert Advice

Isabel Shaw is a freelance writer and homeschooling mom of 15 years. She and her husband Ray homeschool their two daughters, Jessica and Amanda. Besides being a contributor to FamilyEducation.com, Shaw has written for Home Education Magazine, The Link, Homeschooling Horizons Magazine, The Homeschool Gazette, and other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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