Top 10 Homeschool Tips for High School Math Success

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high school math success

Over the years, I have supported countless homeschool families across the country. It has been a great pleasure getting to know these families and assisting them in managing their children’s middle and high school math education. These families have taught me a great deal as well. I view homeschool parents as fellow teachers, so I value learning from their experiences.

I have compiled a list of the most important areas for homeschoolers to focus on to ensure a robust high school math education that will set them up for success in college and beyond. Hope you enjoy!

1. Choosing the Right Curriculum: A Cornerstone of Math Success

This is probably one of the most important items on the list and the most difficult for parents to get right. When homeschooling high school math, the curriculum you choose plays a pivotal role. It’s essential to find a balance between the rigor and learning style that suits your child.

So, what curriculum should you choose? Well, the answer is the curriculum that works for both you and your child, without sacrificing the quality of education.

Moreover, there is no single curriculum that is perfect for all children.  What you need to do is figure out the type of courses your child enjoys.  Maybe they like a video based course over a textbook…if so, focus your search on video based courses.

Most importantly, you really need to pay attention to how comprehensive a course is as you don’t want a course that is too easy for your child.

Finding the right curriculum is not easy and the sooner you start looking for the right course for your homeschooler the better.

It’s also important to note that even if you believe you have found the perfect course, it may turn out to be unsuitable once your child starts engaging with it – many of you may have already experienced this in the past. Therefore, it’s essential to be open to making changes, conduct thorough research, and switch to a different curriculum if your child is not making progress.

2. What You Did In Middle School Counts Big Time

The math foundation laid in middle school is crucial for high school math success. So you need to ensure your child masters core basic math skills by the time they are in 8th grade. These skills would include fractions, order of operations, positive and negative numbers and basic algebra.

Hence, you need to look to see if the curriculum they are using is getting them to master these skills- if it’s not change!  Also your child does not have to learn everything at the middle school level perfectly.  As long as they have mastered and retained core skills they will be ready for high school algebra.

3. Algebra Must Be Mastered Early

By far, algebra 1 is the most important course your child will take in high school. Mastery of algebra in your homeschool high school curriculum is non-negotiable. It sets a critical foundation for future math courses and overall academic success.

Hence, you’ll want to start early and work on total mastery of the skills in the course- this may well take you a full year or a little  longer.  Don’t worry if you spend 16 months on Algebra 1; as long as your child truly understands the material, that’s what matters.

Lastly, don’t rush the course even if your child is great at algebra. With your gifted students I would give them more challenging algebra problems and just get them to understand the material even better.

4. Geometry Before Algebra 2

I firmly believe in the importance of your child completing geometry before tackling algebra 2.

Firstly, geometry is a critical component of the SAT/ACT exams. Therefore, it’s wise to avoid overlapping the study of geometry with the year your child is preparing for these crucial tests.

Secondly, consider the sequence: algebra 1 followed by algebra 2. That’s two consecutive years immersed in algebra. This could potentially lead to what I like to call “algebra burn out.” It’s important to mix things up a bit to keep the learning experience fresh and engaging.

Lastly, the transition from algebra 2 to pre-calculus is significant. This break in the sequence ensures that your child enters pre-calculus with a solid and recently reinforced foundation in algebra, which is crucial for success in pre-calculus.

5. Don’t Rush A Course

High school math courses are designed to take a full year. Although your child maybe able to go through the material quickly you need to be concerned about long-term retention and understanding. Hence, your student should not fly through a geometry course in 3 months and move onto the next thing.

Like I said earlier, there are advanced students that are eager to move on to the next course level but you want to develop these students smartly.  My suggestion is that you have them spend at least 6 months in a course level. If they finish early then the course you are taking is either too easy or they’re not reviewing enough with challenging problems.

6. Calculus Should Be Taken In A Classroom

Now when your child is in 12th grade they may very well be ready for Calculus 1.  I would suggest homeschoolers enroll their child in the local community college or see if they can take the course at their local high school.

The key point is at this level of advanced mathematics you need a teacher and a classroom.  Although I’m a big supporter of individual course education in K -12 subjects, calculus is an exception.

The calculus course is too complex for most people to learn on their own. If you can’t get your child into a classroom setting then you can learn at home with the idea that your child will take the course again in college.

7. You Need A Math Teacher

High school mathematics is complex. I have a degree in math and a master’s in education and trust me high school math is not easy.  As such, you want your child to be taught by a qualified experienced teacher.  Of course video courses are perfect for this as long as the teacher is indeed a certified instructor with a degree in math.

Although there are many great math teachers without degrees in math, these teachers still lack the theoretical background to explain complex topics in-depth.  The more a teacher knows about the subject the better they “should be” at teaching it.

Lastly, homeschooling parents need to be very careful about the amount of instructional duties they take on at the high school math level. Sure you may have an engineering degree or aced math in high school, but that does not guarantee that your child will understand your teaching style. Of course if your teaching is connecting with your child then great- but in most families this is not the case.

8. Students Forget If They Don’t Review

We all love those long summer vacations, but they can come at a big cost if you are not careful. What I mean is your child needs to be learning year round when it comes to high school math.

Now they don’t need to learn full time during the summer but they certainly need to review at least a few times a week. If they don’t review they forget and you will start off a new year having to re-teach many old concepts/skills.  Be smart and make time for review during your long breaks.

9. You Don’t Need To Finish Everything

Many parents aim for their children to be in AP Calculus by their senior year. This is a great goal but not absolutely critical to do well in high school math.

Remember, high school is to prepare students for college and I think leaving Calculus 1 for their freshman year in college is perfectly fine.

Your child’s objective for high school math is to master the core skills of algebra 1 through pre-calculus. Even if your child can handle Calculus 1 in the 12th grade don’t push it unless they really have mastered the other courses first.

10. Study And Learning Skills Are Critical

My last item that you need to focus on in high school math, is habits.
– Does your child take great notes?
– Do they do their homework without being forced?
– Do they know how to use time management on a test?

A big part of high school is learning how to be an effective student. Trust me, the best math students I have taught had the best study skills. You need to set high standards of neatness and organization early on so your child has great habits before they go to college.

Final Thoughts

A great high school math education for your child can help them in so many ways. From top SAT/ACT scores to earning scholarships, math plays an important role in your child’s overall development and preparedness for future challenges.

My goal with this article is to help you focus on the most important areas so you can best support your child.

Homeschooling is not easy, but the rewards can be significant if done properly. I hope this article helps you on your journey.

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