Walking into the local college, at 15 years old, to take my first class was an intimidating experience. Having been homeschooled from pre-k forward, I had no idea what to expect in a classroom setting, especially a college classroom. As a college graduate reflecting back, these are a few of the tips that I wish someone would have given to me:
1) Don’t Forget Your Due Dates
A huge benefit of being homeschooled is having flexibility. While my mother would let me postpone assignments due to extracurricular activities, my professors weren’t so lenient. If your professor tells you to turn an assignment in, turn it in on time. Unlike your parents, your professors aren’t concerned about your social activities. They expect you to turn assignments in when they are due with few exceptions. So make sure to keep track of your due dates and turn your assignments in on time.
2) Your Professor Is Not Your Parent
As a homeschooler, you get used to your parents teaching and grading your work. I knew exactly what my mother looked for in my papers and would write them accordingly. However, when I turned in my first paper to my English professor, he informed me of all the errors it contained. So, I got to know my professor and what he was looking for. Just like every parent is different, every professor is different too. If your professor has published work, review some of their writing to get a sense of their style. Go visit them during their office hours and ask them questions. Ask them how you could have done better on certain assignments. This will help you learn more about their teaching style and will show them that you care about your work.
3) Study Groups Are Your New Homeschool Co-op
Have you ever joined a homeschool co-op? I did, and I’m thankful for it. It taught me that a lot of learning can happen in group environments. This is why study groups are so important in college. During my first year of university, I decided to take Japanese. It was a very difficult class. Joining a study group allowed me to converse with my fellow classmates in Japanese and also gave me a chance to learn new ideas from them. They helped me see things in a different way. Don’t isolate your learning; join a study group.
4) Get Involved
One of my biggest regrets in college was not getting involved more. My homeschool years were full of sports, theatre, and volunteering. However, my college years were focused on academics. In my senior year of college, I took a class that taught students how to utilize their degree after college. That class stressed how important getting involved is. For us seniors, it was already too late. Get involved early. Join a club, volunteer, or complete a work study. Find things that interest you, and do them. This will not only help you to establish social relationships, which will help you learn how to network better, but will also show employers that you are able to balance multiple responsibilities.
5) Have a Plan, and Then Have Five Back-up Plans
When I was homeschooled, my parents knew what courses I needed to take. My input boiled down to picking out which curriculum I liked best. In college I had to stay much more proactive. I had to research my major requirements, figure out which classes I could take, and hope that they wouldn’t fill up before I registered. It can be a little overwhelming, so come up with a plan in advance. When course schedules are released, come up with a first choice, second choice, and even a third choice schedule.
Back-up plans help for your major too. I changed majors twice during my four years, and that’s ok. Don’t choose something simply because it sounds interesting. Make sure it’s what you want, and come up with multiple plans in case you discover it’s not.
Bonus! My number one tip for parents:
Let your student make mistakes.
This is the time for your child to take control of their education. I know it’s scary, but I promise they will be ok. They’re going to make mistakes. That’s how they’re going to learn. I had to remind my mom that just because I was telling her about my classes didn’t mean I needed her to remind me of various due dates. Sometimes I knew my mom was right, but I needed to learn that on my own. You’ve done a great job. You’ve gotten them this far, but now is your chance to stop running the race with them. Sit back, relax, cheer them on from the sidelines, and cry as they cross the finish line. They’ve got this!
The idea of studying for a math test can seem like a daunting task for you and your student. Even the word “test” can elicit emotions of fear and doubt. This doesn’t have to be the case. The first step in preparing and studying for a test in the Math-U-See curriculum is making sure you and your student both understand the purpose behind the test. It’s not to see how many questions your student can get right; it’s to confirm student mastery. Once this is understood, studying for a Math-U-See math test will become a much more straightforward process.
Built Around Mastery
The Math-U-See curriculum is built around mastery. This is integral to understanding how to study for our math tests. What is mastery, and how do you know if your student has mastered the lessons? Simply put, mastery is when your student both understands and becomes proficient in a concept. The Math-U-See curriculum uses lessons that focus on a singular topic, allowing the student to fully comprehend what they’re learning before moving on to the next lesson. If you’d like more information on how to tell if your student has achieved mastery, check out our Student Mastery Guide. If mastery has been accomplished, then taking a test becomes a chance for your student to show the progress they’ve made instead of it being a challenge. The studying process becomes a simple process of review to make sure that mastery of that lesson has taken place.
Multiple Types of Tests
The Math-U-See program includes multiple types of tests including lesson tests, unit tests, and final exams. The lesson tests vary in style depending on the level your student is in (open answer or multiple choice). Studying for the different test types takes the same process. This is because the Math-U-See curriculum is built sequentially. This means that concepts build upon one another, so your student has a solid foundation before moving on to new material. The unit tests and final tests take the information your student has learned so far in the level and tests their mastery of that material. As students’ progress through the levels, some lesson tests even take on this approach. For example, in Algebra 2, the last few questions of the test pertain to information from previous lessons or even previous levels. If your student is mastering each lesson before moving on to the next, their strong foundation will support them through the tests. Preparing for these tests might take going back further in the level to rework previous concepts, but the approach is the same. Nevertheless, even with sequential learning and mastery there are still ways that test preparation can benefit your student.
Prepare With the Student Workbook
The good news is you have a customized preparation resource right at your fingertips: your student’s workbook. The first step you should take with your student is going back over their lesson worksheets. Locate areas where your student struggled. Are there any patterns that you notice? This can help you identify areas your student may need a little more review. Try not to just repeat back the formula or instructions to your student. Ask them questions, “Can you walk me through how you tried solving this problem?” or “Is there a different way you could have solved this?” These kinds of questions will give your student a chance to engage with the concept. It will also give you a chance to see where your student has mastered a concept and where they might need more time. If they need more practice, have your student go through another worksheet with you. Also, analyze the problems your student answered correctly, and ask them similar questions. This kind of dynamic will give your student a deeper understanding of the material so they can be ready for the test.
What Should You Do Next?
You’ve tried all this, and your student is still struggling with their tests. What should you do next? Maybe it’s time to evaluate if you are setting reasonable expectations for your student. How are you talking about the tests to your student? Are you getting upset with your student when they struggle with tests but do fine with the worksheets? Maybe you’ve developed a more fixed mindset instead of a positive growth mindset. If this is the case, try to adjust your thoughts and language toward tests. Ask your students questions and engage with the material. Realize that mastery is an ongoing process, and some students might take longer than others to achieve it. The point of the test is not to get all the answers correct, but to evaluate your student’s needs so that you can guide them in the right direction. Keep positive, and remember that studying doesn’t just begin right before the test but every time your student engages with math.
Songs, music, and rhyme are all helpful tools to aid students with math facts. Download some math songs to sing while you’re outside! There are also activities for when the weather doesn’t lend itself to outside math.
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