Thursday, November 15, 2012

Homeschooling High School {Algebra}

November 7, 2012 012

As a home school mom, it is not uncommon for me to receive certain questions from family, friends, and strangers.  (Yes, even strangers.  {smile})

I’ve had conversations that go something like this:

person speaking to me:  Are you going to home school through high school?

me:  Yes, that’s the plan for now. 

other person:  Well, what about algebra?  Or even science?  Are you able to do that?

me:  Yes, I plan on teaching those subjects too. 

Usually the conversation goes on with me explaining the many options available to homeschoolers in regards to curriculum. 

(Though, honestly, I want to ask people if they realize that they are telling me that I’m not smart enough to teach my child.  I realize that I’m being snarky…and trust me, I try to not let my snarky side ever come out. But I wish people would realize that most homeschooling parents are aware of our weaknesses in our educations.  And most have all ready thought on how to teach our children despite our weaknesses.  One day, I’m going to start rambling off my high school and college rankings, pull out my educational resume, spout off my math ACT score and maybe even my college GPA!  Yes, I do believe I am totally and completely capable of teaching my children. Even algebra. And if I find that I can not do it, we will find another way to do it.  Ok, rant over…sorry…stuffing my snarky side back into hiding.  Can you tell this is a soap box thing for me? {smile})

So like I was saying before I went off on that tangent {ahem}, how do we teach high school algebra?

First, we chose a curriculum that works for us.  We use Saxon Algebra. We also bought the DIVE CD-ROM that has the lectures for the lessons.  We have also found that the Solutions Manual is a very useful tool to have.  The Solutions Manual gives each problem and step-by-step solutions as to how the answer was found.  It is wonderful to have around! 

Another great math curriculum is Teaching Textbooks (TT).  TT is an interactive math curriculum completed by the student on the computer.  The computer teaches the lessons, presents the math problems, grades the problems, and shows corrections to mistakes.  We have used it for other grade levels and have not used it for Algebra.  However, I have friends who have used it and love it. 

After Bryce has completed a lesson, he checks the lesson in a different colored ink.  Later, he and I go over any incorrect problems or math problems he has left blank (our signal for I need help with this one).  I remember when my algebra teacher took the time to show us step-by-step solutions and the reasoning behind the solution, particularly with the math problems we struggled with, that algebra started to “stick” for me.  I’m trying to follow this same model for my son.  So far, it seems to be working. 

November 7, 2012 014

I make a “pop quiz” reviewing new materials or math problems that seem to continually trip him up.  I have him complete the pop quiz before his next lesson.  He must bring it to me and let me look over it before moving on to the new lesson.  This is one way that I check to make sure he is understanding the material before moving forward.

The more involved I am in his algebra instruction, the better he seems to do with it.  I’m going to be honest.  It is hard to carve out the time to do algebra one-on-one instruction everyday.  But Bryce seems to flourish more if we do.  So we do our best to fit it in everyday or we have a big tutoring session once or twice a week.

Sometimes I have to study the lessons to remember what to do.  No, I do not remember everything that I learned in algebra.  But Saxon Algebra is excellent in explaining how to find a solution and the why behind it.  (I am big on the why part…I need to know why. {smile}).  There are times I have to ask Bryce to wait a minute while I study the lesson.  (Saxon gives these little cues to tell you which lesson to go back to for help.)  Usually after studying the lesson, I am able to go on with helping him. 

This is what we do in our home school.  But I do have more advice

Get help if help is needed.  Once I had a chat with another home school mom at my son’s fencing lesson.  At the time, my boys were little but she told me then, “If you ever need some help with the higher level maths, I am more than happy to help out.”  (She was a math major and a lover of all things math.)  There are people out there that for them, math is a breeze.  Many of them are willing to lend a hand to help or perhaps you can exchange services with them.  There are probably many of these math lovers in your local home school groups.  Sometimes, all it takes is asking and friends will be able to recommend someone to you. 

Don’t let algebra scare you.  You and I survived it once.  We’ll survive it again.  (Or many times if you have more than one child.) 

What about you…do you have some advice for surviving and succeeding with algebra in your home school?

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