Being the oldest of seven kids, I was reluctantly appointed the family’s official tutor from a very young age. My parents weren’t very educated and so it fell on me to help my younger brothers and sisters with their learning. So, it was no surprise to anyone that I became a math teacher.
Today, I homeschool my boys and still do some tutoring on the side. When I ask homeschooling parents why they are seeking a math tutor for their child (other than their student having a hard time with math), the number one answer I get is that they don’t understand it. This is then followed up with negative responses such as “Math was my worst subject in school” or “I just hate math!”
Now, these parents know how to add, subtract, multiply, or divide but beyond that, math is like trying to decipher hieroglyphics. So, what do homeschooling parents do when their middle schooler begins taking pre-algebra courses that go beyond their scope of mathematical knowledge? They enroll their child in online courses or they hire someone like me to tutor their child. But here is where I ask parents to reconsider their decision to do either of these methods.
Enroll in an Online Course?
First, if your child is in need of help in math, the last thing you want to do is to enroll them in an online course. Most online courses are only suitable for students who are proficient self-learners. They are for those students who can open a book, understand what they are reading, and have the ability to apply it to their studies easily.
Parents should also be aware that some online courses do not have moderators to help your child. And if they do, they are not easily available for one on one help.
Hire a Tutor?
Now, as for hiring a tutor, this is where I caution parents. Again, I say this from experience. Remember that our children learn from example and we are their number one role model. So here are the signals our children receive when parents hire a tutor because of their limited knowledge in math:
● Kids feel they are being forced to learn the kind of math that their parents obviously did not master.
● Kids feel that they don’t really need to learn that much math since their parents seem to be doing well in life without it.
● Kids come to believe that the only people who seem to need or use this type of math are math teachers (and tutors).
When you couple these messages with a parent who verbally groans and proclaims that they hate math, parents are saying to their children: “I can’t be bothered with math and so I’ll just shirk it off to someone else.” Now, I know this is not any parent’s intention but these are the cues our children receive…
Learn With Your Children
So what can we do about it as homeschoolers? We can learn with our children. We can take this second chance to finally get it right. We can show our children how important all subjects are. We can take this wonderful opportunity as a lesson in never giving up. And when we don’t have all the answers, we seek help and don’t pass the buck.
Take language arts and writing for example. What math is for most people, language arts and writing was for me. When I started homeschooling I was anxious about tackling this subject because I didn’t do so well in my writing and language art courses. I had no idea what a transitive verb is or the purpose of the indirect object.
So, to help me help my children, I bought a standard type of language art course, the kind most schools use with a textbook and workbook. As my children learned new concepts, I learned with them. As they practiced problems, I also practiced them too. Over time, I began to understand all those things I missed during my own learning as a child.
Now please don’t get me wrong when it comes to hiring a tutor or enrolling your child for online classes. There are situations when this becomes necessary. If you know that your child is a self-learner, then, by all means, enroll them in online classes. But understand that having a smart child is not a sign that they are self-learners. You really need to observe them and see how they go about solving difficult concepts when they arise.
If you work outside the home or homeschool multiple children at different grade levels, then yes, hire a tutor. And, naturally, if you are struggling yourself as you try to teach your child concepts you still find difficult, then you will definitely need a tutor. However, take the time to sit with the tutor as he/she helps your child. I am almost certain the tutor will not mind you learning with your child. I know that I don’t and, in fact, I welcome it.
About the Author
Dionne is the mother of 13-year-old twin boys and wife to a Navy sailor for over 21 years. She is a middle-school math teacher turned homeschooler since 2013. When she’s not blogging at Home Made Our Way, she enjoys audiobooks while crafting, organizing, and inventing things for her husband to put together.