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.
When you’re first considering homeschool, whether it is your child’s first educational experience or you’re switching paths, it’s an exciting and potentially overwhelming time. So many choices! So many options! Which curriculum do I use? Wow, look at all the fun, character-building, educational activities that are available! LET’S DO ALL THE THINGS!
Whoa. Pump the brakes. Take a breath.
You will have a much more successful, much more peaceful and satisfying time if you ease into things. There is no one correct homeschool path; that’s the beauty of homeschooling. You have the opportunity to make it your – and your student’s – own unique, custom learning path. You may feel pressured or overwhelmed to make big decisions right away, before you feel fully informed or ready. Keep in mind, there are very few hard and fast deadlines once you decide to homeschool. There are no “shoulds” when it comes to where your student should start, or where they should be at a certain age. Grade levels are provided for the convenience of schools so they can place students with similarly aged peers; it can make it easier to teach a large group, but you don’t have that problem. You can start where you are, and as long as you can demonstrate progress in some way in the subjects your state requires, you will be just fine.
Talk to experienced homeschoolers. These savvy veterans can give you great advice on how to make things work from day-to-day and year-to-year. But keep in mind, your homeschool experience is just that: yours.
But not everyone has access to a community of wise, experienced homeschoolers…or do they? The internet has a plethora of resources. There are homeschool bloggers who write on all kinds of topics, and most of them keep it real. We’ve included advice for new homeschoolers from six of our personal favorites. Their blogs are great places to start whether you’re looking for practical advice, encouragement, or just to know that you’re not alone in this endeavor.
This piece was originally written for our free Homeschool 101 eBook. It’s filled with information, from the history of homeschooling to going over the different homeschooling styles.
6 Homeschool Tips
1) Research Homeschooling Before You Start
“When I first started homeschooling, I had all the answers. I had been homeschooled myself, I was going to use the same curriculum I grew up with, I had little desks and planners with carefully planned lessons months in advance…and it didn’t work! It was a disaster from the start! I wish I had known that there are different styles of homeschooling. I wish I had understood my children’s learning styles beforehand and taken the time to really figure out what curriculum would have worked based on that. And MOST of all, I wish I had known to have more realistic expectations, to use curriculum as a mere tool, not to be a slave to it! I homeschool completely differently now, we are more at peace, more flexible, and whole lot more fun! I love sharing real life, helping new homeschoolers see that they are not alone, that there is another way to homeschool, and that homeschooling doesn’t have to be mimicking a school setting.”
Homeschooling for over 5 years.
2) Your Homeschool Experience Is Your Own
“There will be multitudes of people giving advice, scores of curriculum to choose from, and various methods for doing things. At times the abundance of information (although a blessing) can get noisy and distracting. In the end, trust that if God called you to this journey, He will equip you. He will provide all that you need. Your homeschool is not intended to look like anyone else’s. God has a unique purpose and plan for your family and that is exciting! Don’t get caught up in trying to recreate what someone else is doing, but trust that the Lord is going to lead you each step of the way to develop your homeschool uniquely for your family, and ultimately to glorify Him.”
Homeschooling for over 11 years.
Simply Living for Him
3) You Don’t Have to Look Like a Public School
“Your homeschool doesn’t have to look like a public school classroom. If I could go back and do those early years over again, I’d have spent much more time reading quality books with my kids (historical fiction, captivating biographies, and both classic and modern literature) and learning through hands-on experiences (playing, field trips, nature study, etc.).
It’s important to remember that sometimes it takes awhile to find your groove. Homeschooling for the first time is like being a new parent. Everybody has an opinion, but no one is an expert on homeschooling your child. Sift through the advice and tips, take what works for you, and discard the rest. You’ll probably make mistakes or look back and wish you’d done things differently, but that’s just part of being a parent – homeschooling or otherwise. You’ve got this!”
Homeschooling for 14 years.
Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers
4) Don’t Feel Pressured; Take Your Time
“It’s easy to get caught up in the pressure and advice about what you must do the moment you start homeschooling. Many parents feel like they need to run off and purchase curriculum right away and start immediately with a rigorous school schedule. Don’t do that. Give yourself some grace, give your kids some time. It’s okay to start homeschooling slowly. Bring the kids home, and take the time to read and research, play and explore the big beautiful world out there. Take time to get to know how your kids learn and how they tick. You really do have time. Take it.”
Homeschooling for over 5 years.
Only Passionate Curiosity
5) Learn to Say No When It’s Too Much
“Stretched a little thin on your time outside of the home? Feeling overwhelmed with over commitments is very common! Take a good hard look at the various co-ops, extra classes, sports, volunteering, and events you are involved in and evaluate if they are truly necessary.
We ALL need breathing room and running ourselves (and our kids) ragged is only going to burn us out in the end. You need to be the best mom (or dad) you can for your kids – and sometimes that means saying no to something that is good, but not good for you at the moment. This can be so hard, especially when there are many things that are beneficial – just maybe not in this season for you or your family.”
Homeschooling for over 11 years.
6) Be Flexible in Your Homeschooling
“Homeschooling looks different for everyone. It is unique to each family and sometimes even each child within the family. I think my best advice is to be flexible and go with what works best for your family’s needs. Don’t compare yourself to others because what works for them, probably won’t be what works best for you!”
Homeschooling for over 10 years.
Confessions of a Homeschooler
Homeschooling a child who is easily distracted can be a frustrating challenge, especially when you have other kids. Here are some ideas on how to keep that child focused on their school work so that you can have a successful homeschool day.
12 Tips for Homeschooling a Distracted Child
1) Use a Timer
Timers can be a great way to teach your child to stay focused. As long as you set a realistic amount of time for them to succeed, having that visual cue to stay on task can really help. Knowing that when the timer goes off that they can stop what they are doing often means they put effort into that time frame.
2) Do Learning One on One
If your child is highly distracted, they probably do better in a setting where they are getting sole attention instead of in group learning where it is easier for them to allow their brains (or bodies) to wander around without getting noticed. Sitting them beside you and guiding their learning experience draws their attention back to what they are supposed to be doing.
3) Use Short Lessons
The shorter, the better. Don’t expect a child who can’t stay focused to sit through a long, drawn-out lesson. Short bursts allow a child to learn fast and absorb information before they think of something else.
4) Reward Successes
If a child manages to complete a task with limited attention loss, call it a win and give them a reward for their efforts. This could be as simple as free time, a snack, computer play, or hugs and high fives. Creating a positive response for success means that they will try to replicate that feeling again on their next effort.
5) Cut Out Distractions
In a houseful of children, it can be really hard to remove noise and action and business that can be real deterrents to focusing. If you can move to a quieter area of the house to work, where there aren’t windows to stare through (close blinds or curtains) or screens to look at, or toys to play with – it can make a world of difference.
6) Take Breaks
Give them gaps to allow themselves the freedom to be distracted.
7) Use Music
Try to use music without words that has a rhythmic or calming beat. This can trigger a brain to be able to focus more clearly as it’s got something to keep it busy while the child is working on what you’ve given them to do.
8) Vary the Delivery
Doing the same thing over and over gets boring. Is there a way you can change up today’s lesson to catch your child off guard and gain their surprised attention?
9) Use Highly Visual or Interactive Learning Opportunities
Videos and computers can be really fast paced, which is exactly what children who can’t stay focused need. The constant change in picture keeps their brains stimulated and wanting to see what’s next. Another idea is to get hands-on. If a child is trying to figure something out and loves what they are exploring, they can actually hyper-focus instead of letting their brains wander.
10) Find an Area of Interest
A child who wants to learn will be much more focused than a child is doesn’t. Find something they are curious about and you will see how much better they are able to learn.
11) Avoid the Rabbit Hole
Sometimes a distracted child will just randomly start a conversation about something completely off-topic. It becomes an obsessive topic that they want to deeply discuss right then. Try to find a way to direct that conversation back to the subject at hand, or take a note down of the topic with the promise to talk about it after learning time is done.
12) Exercise Before Focusing
Studies have shown that kids who spend time doing active exercising before they need to be focused do better in school. Go for a run around the yard or up and down the stairs, use exercise equipment, or any other of your favourite morning fitness routines before you sit down to work.
It can be a real struggle to find a helpful solution. Try combining a few of these ideas for your distracted learner and see what works best for your homeschool.
About the Author
Lisa Marie Fletcher is a homeschooling mom of 5 kids ranging from preschool to high school. When she isn’t learning with her kids or pretending to clean her house, Lisa runs The Canadian Homeschooler where her mission is to help connect homeschoolers across Canada with each other and with resources to help them on their journey.
Commemorating new seasons in our life is a healthy practice, for adults and children alike. Marking time with a tradition or special memory gives us a sense of excitement and ownership over our lives.
The slight hiccup with back to school season is that it can sometimes make homeschoolers feel a little left out. There is a small, or not so small, part of us that may begin to doubt our lifestyle as we see all smiling back-to-school faces fill our Facebook and Instagram news feeds each fall. We begin to ask ourselves if our kids are missing out on something by not having the brand new lunchbox and outfit for their first day.
I propose homeschoolers take ownership over the back to school season. To do so, we must first remember that “back to school” is literally an American retail season. The stores and online ads around you are trying to create a need where there isn’t one. Instead of letting those sales for lunch boxes and backpacks sow seeds of insecurity, we can embrace this season as a time of celebration.
Let’s give our kids a tangible ways to celebrate their first day of school. I believe every homeschool family can find some type of “beginning” to celebrate, even if you’re unschoolers or school year-round. It may be the beginning of a new book, or of a new season; just find a marker in time and celebrate.
Pick one or more of the below back to homeschool traditions, or come up with your own; bend them to fit your specific family. It’s all about balance, and creating a sense of excitement in your kids. Trust me, excitement is contagious. When they are excited, you will be too.
5 Back to Homeschool Traditions
1) First Half Day!
Our first day of school is actually our first half day too! The best advice I’ve ever received from a mentor homeschool mom was to ease into my year with a few subjects at a time. If may be hard for those of you who like to check off all your boxes, but a slow start for the year is a healthy way to allow a students’ confidence to grow for each subject as it comes. We start history and science on our first week, add spelling the second week, math the third, and by the fourth week we are full steam ahead. The half day also allows us to do some of the other fun first day traditions.
2) Special Breakfast
Let’s face it, food talks. Make it a holiday for your kids with their favorite breakfast food. If I’m feeling really lazy, I just go to the store the night before and buy a box of donuts! Kids are not picky when it comes to sugary treats; they just want something out of the ordinary, anything that says “This is a special day!”
3) Treasure Hunt
A simple treasure hunt gives real joy to your morning, without derailing the schedule for the day. We have four to five simple clues, and the prizes at the end are always inexpensive and related to school. This year the prizes were erasable colored pencils and chewing gum. It is OK that the clues are easy and the hunt only takes five minutes, because the object of the game is NOT problem-solving hard riddles. The object is to start school with fun! I thought my junior high boys would have grown out of this tradition this year, but it was just as exciting as when they were in 1st grade. We have each boy take turns reading and solving a clue. Make sure you have enough clues for each of your children.
4) First Day of School Pictures
You may think your big second grader is all grown up, but years from now you will look back at and see how truly tiny they really were. Give yourself grace to be authentic. Last year my kids were freshly bathed with new clothes and a beautifully decorated chalkboard sign on their first morning of school. The next year our “first day of school” pictures took place on the fourth day of lessons at 4:30pm and I had to beg my kids to change out of pajamas! Give yourselves a break! You are the mom, the cook, the principal, security guard, and teacher. It is OK to not be the perfectly scheduled yearbook photographer. The key is documenting the beginning of something new, not how Pinterest-worthy your pictures are.
5) NOT Back to School Trip
Celebrate your freedom from the public school calendar! Take your family vacation in late August or September, instead of July. Go on a camping trip, or enjoy the quiet beach all to yourself! Go to museums during weekday daytime hours. Invite your homeschool friends to the best park in your town, on a Tuesday at 10:00am! Use this season to revel a little bit in the freedom we have as homeschoolers.
I hope any of these traditions help you begin your year with excitement!
About the Author
Robyn Joyner is a writer, photographer, and homeschool mother to twin boys. With a degree in Early Childhood, she believes learning doesn’t begin or end with school or college degrees, but is a lifelong journey. She leads the Women’s Ministry Fellowship in her church, and enjoys meal planning, spending time with her husband and children, and reading children’s literature. Robyn blogs at Leading Them to the Rock.
Many people struggle with fractions–including adults! Steve Demme uses this video workshop to help you see fractions, which is a critical step in understanding them.
He reveals unique teaching approaches that you can apply to your own homeschool program, even if you don’t consider math your favorite–or best–school subject. When you teach using Steve’s tips and methods, math will become not only understandable, but also fun for your child.
What holds children back when it comes to fractions?
The answer is a lack of true understanding and mastery. They are often encouraged to memorize just enough to complete a chapter. Then, when confronted with even simple word problems or real-life problem solving, they have to ask, “What do we do?” Not anymore. Observe Steve’s teaching methods to learn how to help your child understand fractions and other important math concepts, building knowledge he or she can use throughout home education and in the real world. Steve prioritizes thorough mastery of the subject at hand before students move on to the next topic, a technique that creates truly confident problem solvers.
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What is your relationship with money? Do you have trouble managing it or making sure it’s in line with what God wants for you?
There’s good news: your money doesn’t have to put you at odds with your Christian life.
In this video, Steve Demme discusses how to be a faithful steward, caring for the gifts God has given you. He shares insight into God’s view of your possessions and discusses being not only grateful for the gifts God gives us, but also responsible in using them.
He covers such topics as riches, temptation, bills, taxes, marriage, and work for the glory of God, providing practical examples, relevant scriptures, and personal experiences. Best of all, he explains each topic in easy-to-grasp terms, with a little humor added in for good measure. Incorporate his approach into your at-home school program.
Stewardship Math Demonstration
Stewardship Math Program
Watch as Steve Demme covers ways to teach your child math with this multiplication demonstration.
Too many people go through life memorizing mathematical facts and formulas, but not really understanding how to use math in real-life situations. In this multiplication video, Steve covers ways to teach your child multiplication skills that he can apply throughout his homeschool years and in real life. Even better, he provides ways to make learning math fun.
If you’ve ever watched a child struggle with math, you know that memorization of key concepts isn’t enough.
Most children can memorize well enough to pass a test or get through a school week on a particular concept. The problem comes when they are asked to apply their skills to different types of math problems–or even the same type of problem, once the memory has faded a bit. Children need true understanding in order to master multiplication and apply it in homeschooling and throughout life. Steve uses his unique, step-by-step home education method to help children move from memorization to thinking their way through math.
Don’t allow algebra to confuse and discourage your child. You can give him the firm foundation he needs to become a confident problem solver.
Watch this algebra workshop video to learn some fundamental algebraic concepts and get tips that will help your child (and you) understand the language of algebra. Steve Demme shows step-by-step approaches to algebra that every parent can use.
If your child is going to explore advanced match concepts during home education and/or use them at college later, she’ll need a firm understanding of algebra. Just learning enough to finish a school unit or chapter will surely leave her frustrated and confused later. Math only gets more complicated from this level. But with Steve’s unique teaching method, your child can master algebra and develop the skills and understanding she needs for continued math success.
When you teach using Steve’s approach, your child will fully master one subject before moving on to the next, eliminating the confusion students experience when they lack true understanding.
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For many homeschool parents, just thinking about teaching division causes anxiety.
In this video, Steve Demme gives parents at all math levels some tips for making division understandable and fun for their children, providing the basics they need to move from early school work concepts into upper-level math. Even better, Steve shows parents like you how to teach tricky division concepts and turn them into lasting skills that can be used throughout home education and in real life. You can help your child become a confident problem solver!
Steve’s unique teaching methods decode division concepts, from the basics up through advanced math, to ensure that homeschool students really master each concept instead of just memorizing facts until the next chapter.
By building on the basics, Steve’s step-by-step teaching methods accomplish what few math programs do: true understanding. Watch the video to learn ways to prevent frustration and confusion from coloring your child’s math experience.
Watch as Steve Demme teaches math concepts and provides tips for making math understandable in this place value demonstration, not only for homeschool work, but also for practical application in real life.
Steve’s methods make it easy for you to teach your child, even if you’ve struggled with math your entire life. Best of all, his tips help to make learning math fun!
Place value isn’t just a concept to memorize and move past. It’s an important building block for math, from the basics through advanced school concepts. Steve teaches the language of math, concentrating on mastery versus mere memorization of facts and formulas. His methods ensure that children fully understand the topic at hand before moving to the next subject.
If you want to teach your child how to think through math and solve problems rather than just remember rules, don’t miss this video. Steve will show you how to make your homeschool student a confident problem solver.